Month 14 Worry: When and How Do I Take Care of My Child's Teeth?
The most common medical concern for parents of children this age
What the Docs May Do
The bacterial culprit for tooth decay is Streptococcus mutans, a distant cousin of strep throat. Just as our national terror alert system has color coding, so Strep mutans has degrees of evil. Children’s strep may be terror alert green, but adult Strep mutans is certainly code red—that is, adult mouth bacteria are more aggressive than kids’. This is why parents should never lick a baby’s pacifier or share a toothbrush with a child.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, fluoride is necessary to help prevent cavities and in recommended doses will not cause flourosis (staining of teeth). To avoid a toddler’s exposure to too much fluoride, the AAPD recommends determining the sources of dietary fluoride that a child might be exposed to. This may include drinking water, beverages such as soda, juice, and toothpaste. Infant formulas and water bottled for infants have varying amounts of fluoride.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends the first dental visit by your child’s first birthday. Some family dentists recommend waiting until your child is 3 years old (or later). I have had many patients wait until their third birthday only to be told they have a mouthful of cavities. Earlier is definitely better, and I recommend that my patients who haven’t seen the dentist by age one make an appointment in the following three to six months.
I have had much better luck with pediatric dentists for young toddlers. (Find one near you here.) Compared to dentists who work primarily on adults, pediatric specialists seem to have more patience, take the time to do a more thorough exam, and do a better job teaching young kids and their parents. I also find they are especially suited for my developmentally delayed or more anxious patients.
More 14th Month Help
Even the most confident parent has concerns about her child’s health and wellness from time to time. Learn more about which medical issues are most common at each age, here. (If you have any pressing concerns or questions about your baby’s health, please check with her healthcare provider.)
- What was last month’s most popular health worry?
- Learn which medical question you might have next month.
- Here’s what else is happening with your baby’s health and development this month.
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