Health Library
Dental Health

Why is Dental Health Important?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the Division of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggest that children visit the dentist within six months after getting their first tooth or no later than age 1. At this visit your dentist will:

  • Check for cavities
  • Check your child’s dental development
  • Talk with you about how to care for your child’s teeth
  • Start your child off with a healthy smile


It is an extremely happy time for you when your child begins to have his or her first teeth. Often, you may blame teething for causing symptoms that might really be related to some other medical problem.

It is not uncommon for a child to develop eczema, diaper rash, sleep disturbances, ear infections and upper respiratory problems in early infancy. At the same time, your child is also getting his or her first teeth and many of these symptoms are blamed on the teeth. Teething is not associated with ear infections, diarrhea or cold symptoms.

The only symptoms your child may have when teething include:

  • Low-grade fever (not over 101 F)
  • Minor discomfort

You may give your child pain medication and use teethers to help with the discomfort caused by teething.

Pacifying Your Baby

pacifierLong-term use of a pacifier can affect how your child’s teeth grow. But a pacifier is usually stopped easier than a thumb habit. If your child sucks his or her thumb, try to switch to a pacifier since it will be easier to break the pacifier habit.

If you let your child use a pacifier:

  • Select a sturdy, flexible pacifier
  • Never attach a pacifier around your baby’s neck
  • Do not apply sweeteners to a pacifier
  • Replace the pacifier every few months

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay is a real problem facing children who sleep with their bottles and use sippy cups.Nursing bottle decay is a rapid form of decay that affects the upper front teeth and upper and lower back teeth. Children can lose their teeth early from this decay. If teeth are lost, this may create social problems and cause problems with the permanent teeth. Some of the damaging effects of such decay can be seen in this picture.

Faculty and staff of the Division of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics at Cincinnati Children’s recommend the following:

  • Choose a dentist by age 1 or when your baby’s first tooth comes in
  • Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle filled with liquids other than water; other liquids can cause tooth decay
  • Never use the bottle as a pacifier during nap or bedtime
  • Breast feeding on demand throughout the night may contribute to dental decay
  • Wiping your child’s teeth and gums with a baby cloth or cotton gauze after each feeding is a good habit to start

Tooth decay can contribute to other health problems, and children with baby bottle tooth decay can weigh less than their peers.

Importance of Baby Teeth

Losing baby teeth early may:

  • Make eating more difficult
  • Affect appearance
  • Temporarily affect speech
  • Create needless pain and infection that can lead to hospitalization
  • Create spacing problems for permanent teeth
  • Affect self-esteem
  • Affect your child’s growth
  • Impact medical care, especially for those who have other health issues

Trauma Prevention

Oral injuries like this one can be avoided.You can avoid many of the oral injuries children get, like chipped teeth (shown in photo), by taking a few simple safety steps. Mouth injuries are common in toddlers who are learning to walk. Most mouth injuries result from a fall or an accident while playing.

Because injuries to the face and teeth are likely to increase each year from age 1 to 6, it is important that you take precautions to prevent these injuries:

  • Always use a properly sized car seat for your child.
  • Child-proof sharp corners of tables and windowsills.
  • Place safety railings on beds and put gates in front of stairs.
  • Prevent injuries by moving furniture out of the way to make clear paths for walking. One of the most common areas for injury is a coffee table.
  • Make sure your child uses a mouth guard for sports such as in-line skating, bike riding, soccer, basketball, football and scooters.

If your child has an accident that involves the mouth or teeth, call your dentist right away.

Last Updated 07/2021

Reviewed By Sarat Thikkirussy, DDS, MS