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Parental guidance: When to bring kids to the dentist

Dentist.

Dentist. Photo Credit: iStock

When am I supposed to start taking my baby to the dentist?

Many parents are surprised to hear that the American Dental Association recommends babies be brought to a dentist for the first time within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than 12 months old.

Parents have said to pediatric dentist Michele Savel, "Wow, this is crazy, my kid only has two teeth." But that first appointment is meant as much for parents as for baby, Savel says.

"It really has to do with educating the parents on how to properly care for the child's teeth," says Savel, owner of Kiddsmiles, with locations in Manhasset, North Babylon, Holbrook, and an office opening in Merrick this week. The Dental Association calls that "anticipatory guidance." Dentists talk about how to correctly brush a baby's teeth and about how long a baby should continue using a pacifier.

They also should broach the topic of bottle rot, which can happen when a baby is put to sleep with a bottle, Savel says. "A lot of parents don't know they're not supposed to do that," she says. Some kids have cavities at 1, usually due to bottle rot, she says.

Typically at visits between ages 1 and 3, the child will sit on the parent's lap for an exam. It gets the child used to having a doctor put hands in the mouth and to the atmosphere of the dentist's office. "As they get older, they're used to coming, and they're not scared," Savel says.

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