Friday, June 28, 2013

When should your child start seeing a dentist?

 This post has been updated. Please check out the new post February 2018

Parents often ask us when they should start taking their kids to the dentist.
Believe it or not, the current recommendation is now that your child should have his or her first dental visit by age one.

In California, about one third of preschoolers have dental decay.   It is much easier to prevent decay in toddlers' teeth than to fill a cavity in a young child. Although tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, it can be prevented.

As parents, we may think, "Baby teeth fall out, so we don't need to worry about them." This sounds logical, but unfortunately is not true. Luckily, dental science has found out many new facts about how to prevent dental decay.    We now know that bacteria causes tooth decay. This "bad" bacteria can find its way into your babies mouths in many ways.  Eating foods high in sugar is one of the most obvious offenders. In order to prevent decay in our adult teeth, baby teeth have to be kept healthy as well.

What can you do to keep your child's teeth healthy, right from the start?
For the youngest babies with  brand new teeth you can wipe them off with a soft piece of gauze or a wet wash cloth.
Not only are you cleaning off the teeth, (breast milk does have sugar) but you are getting the baby used to a routine. Training your child from the start that teeth get brushed is a wonderful way to created good dental habits that will last a lifetime. 
Other options
Spiffies,: These are little flavored towelettes specially formulated for wiping baby teeth

Soft finger brush: These fit over your finger and if you baby will let you, allow you to get in there and do a nice thorough job

Toothbrush: Make sure it has soft bristles, replace when it looks like the bristles are getting worn.

The old recommendation was to use non fluoride toothpaste until kids were two. The new suggestion is to use a tiny amount( grain of rice size) of fluoride toothpaste. It is important to note that too much can be harmful so keep the amount tiny. Once kids get to be over two, you can use a pea sized amount.


Find a dentist that treats very young children and bring your child to his or her first appointment when the first teeth erupt - no later than by age one. During the visit, the dentist will check your child for dental decay and talk to you about cleaning your baby's teeth. They might also talk to you about proper nutrition for keeping baby teeth healthy.   

If you have any concerns about the manner in which the teeth are erupting, having a dentist who is familiar with your child will be very useful.

Another important thing to think about is that having a dentist can come in very handy if you happen to have any dental emergencies. Kids have accidents! It is not unusual for me to get calls about chipped or loose teeth after a fall. I usually suggest that they contact their dentist on those occasions, and the folks that already have one are way ahead of the game.  

Some parents avoid taking children to the dentist to save money, yet studies show that the dental costs for children who have their first dental visit before the age of one are 40 percent lower in the first five years of life than for those who do not see a dentist before their first birthday.
Do consider this when deciding whether or not to add your child to your dental plan (if you are lucky enough to have one)

We are fortunate to have lots of excellent choices in our city.
Below is a partial list of dentists who we send patients to.
If someone is conveniently located or is on your insurance plan that is certainly worth consideration.

David Rothman 333-6811
Dr Rothman is over on Ocean avenue near Stonestown
He was my kid's dentist and they loved him. He is an excellent dentist with a wonderful sense of humor.
His office is able to do procedures under general anesthesiology in the office if needed.

Bergen James, Doris Lin-Song and Jennifer Yu   668-3500

They are located on Parker Street near Laurel Village

Claudia Masouredis 753-2777
Dr Masouredis is fairly close to our office, just up the hill on Portola.
Nurse Jen brings her kids here and they adore her.

Dorothy Pang 681-8500
Dr Pang is on Taraval and 18th in the Sunset.
One of the things that sets her apart is that she is affiliated with the UCSF dental school. If someone needs a dental procedure under anesthesiology she can do this at UCSF rather than in the office.

Noe Valley smiles and Braces 678-5445
These folks are right here on 24th street. They recently were a wonderful resource for some of our patients who had after hours dental emergencies

Help your child keep their shining healthy smile! If you need assistance in finding a dentist, or low-cost children's health insurance in San Francisco, please call the Women and Children's' Health Referral Line @ 1-800-300-9950.

RECAP   Tips for Healthy Teeth
  • Take your child to a dentist twice a year; starting by age one
  • Brush your child's teeth everyday; as soon as they come in
  • Make those snacks healthy ones: fruits, cheese, vegetables, nut butters, etc.
  • Take care of your own teeth; adults can spread cavity-causing bacteria to children
  • Never let your baby have a bottle or cup in bed that has anything other than water
Special Thanks to Margaret Fisher from the CHDP program for all of her information and support! 


  1. It’s important to start seeing a dentist even for baby teeth, say dentists. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also help to create a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt. Cavities in baby teeth can also sometimes affect the development of the permanent teeth.

    St George Dental Clinic

  2. Thank you so much, my wife and I have 3 kids, two of which who are very young. We have been wondering where to find a kids dentistry specialist, you wouldn't have any advice on finding one do you? Thanks

  3. Hi George,
    I am not sure where you live.
    I have a short list of excellent dentists that I know of here in the SF Bay Area, although I am certain that there are lots of wonderful ones well beyond this list.
    Check with your pediatrician to see if they have a list of local favorites.
    Good luck with your search

  4. I loved getting x-rays of my teeth as a kid, but I really hated the flouride. That's about it. I seldom if ever got any cavities. That must be because of my nice, hard enamel.

  5. Wow, I didn't realize that there are kids with dental decay as early as that. Preschool is such a young age to already be suffering from dental problems! This article made me realize that I need to get my kids into a dentist office to get examined as soon as I can.