Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry
Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry
1125 S Linden Rd, Suite 800
Flint, MI 48532
(810) 733-5310

Dental Care For Your Baby

“First visit by first birthday!”  Your child should visit a pediatric dentist within 6 months of the first tooth eruption, usually between 6 and 12 months of age.  This visit establishes a “dental home” for your child.  Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.  Please visit our first dental visit page to find out additional information about your child’s first visit to their “dental home”.

The most important reason for this first dental appointment is to begin a thorough prevention program.  Dental problems can begin at a young age and a big concern is Early Childhood Caries (formerly known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries).  Once a child’s diet includes anything besides breast-milk, erupted teeth are at risk for decay.  The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems.  Children with healthy teeth chew food easily and smile with confidence.  Start your child now on a lifetime of good dental habits.

At-will breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt and other sources of nutrition have been introduced.  Children should not fall asleep with a bottle containing anything other than plain water.  Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided.  Fruit juice should only be offered in a cup with meals or at snack time.  Children should be weaned from the bottle at 12-14 months of age.

Thumb sucking and pacifier use is normal for infants; many stop by age 2.  Prolonged thumb sucking and pacifier use can create crooked teeth or bite problems.  If the habit continues beyond age 3, a professional evaluation is recommended.  At Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry, our pediatric dentist will be glad to suggest ways to address a sucking habit.

Beginning at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water.  When teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush.  Use a “smear” of toothpaste (thickness of a piece of paper) to brush the teeth of your child less than 2 years of age.  For the 2-5 year old, dispense a “pea-size” amount of fluoridated toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing.  Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively by themselves.

From 6 months to age 3, your child may have tender gums when teeth are erupting.  Many children like a clean teething ring, cool spoon, or cold wet washcloth.  Some parents use a chilled ring; others simply rub the baby’s gums with a clean finger.

Diet and Snacking

A healthy diet is a balanced diet that naturally supplies all the nutrients your child needs to grow.  A balanced diet is one that includes the following major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, beans, and milk.

Children must have a balanced diet for their teeth to develop properly.  They also need a balanced diet for healthy gum tissue around their teeth.  Of equal importance, a diet high in certain kinds of carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches, may place your child at extra risk for tooth decay.

In order to ensure that your child’s diet is safe for their teeth, be sure they have a balanced diet.  Then, check how frequently they eat foods with sugar or starch in them.  Foods with starch include breads, crackers, pasta and snacks, such as pretzels and potato chips.  When checking for sugar, look beyond the sugar bowl and candy dish.  A variety of foods contain one or more types of sugar, and all types of sugars can promote dental decay.  Fruits, a few vegetables, and most milk products have at least one type of sugar.

Sugar can be found in many processed foods, even some that do not taste sweet.  For example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich not only has sugar in the jelly, but may have sugar added to the peanut butter.  Sugar is also added to such condiments as ketchup and salad dressings.

A balanced diet does not guarantee the proper amount of fluoride for the development and maintenance of your child’s teeth.  If you do not live in a fluoridated community or have an ideal amount of naturally occurring fluoride in your well water, your child may need a fluoride supplement during the years of tooth development.  At Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry, our pediatric dentists can help assess how much supplemental fluoride your child needs, based upon the amount of fluoride in your drinking water and other potential sources of fluoride.

Do not nurse your young child to sleep or put them to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or sweetened liquid.  While a child sleeps, any unswallowed liquid in the mouth feeds bacteria that produce acids and attack the teeth.  Protect your child from severe tooth decay by putting him to bed with nothing more than a pacifier or bottle of plain water.

Brushing and Flossing

After feeding, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze or washcloth.  This will remove plaque and food that can harm erupting teeth.  When your child’s teeth begin to emerge, brush them gently with a child’s size toothbrush and a smear of children’s fluoridated toothpaste (thickness of a piece of paper).  Your child’s teeth should be brushed two times per day, most importantly before bedtime.  By spending a few minutes each day caring for your baby’s teeth, you can help ensure that your child’s smile gets off to a healthy start. 

When your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste (after age two), begin brushing the teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Use an age appropriate size toothbrush and replace it when it is worn.  Brush and floss your child’s teeth until he or she is at least six years old.

Proper brushing techniques should begin when the teeth begin to emerge from the gums.  Position your child so that you can easily see in their mouth.  If possible, sit on the ground and rest your child’s head in your lap.  Place the toothbrush against the teeth and gums.  Gently move the brush back and forth in short circular strokes.  Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower.  Repeat the same method for the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of the teeth.  Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.

Proper flossing techniques should begin when teeth begin to touch one another as flossing will help prevent cavities between teeth.   Using about two feet of floss, wind most of it around the middle fingers of both hands.  Hold the floss between the thumbs and forefingers.  Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth.    Curve the floss into a C-shape and guide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance.  Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth.  Repeat these steps on each tooth.  Don’t forget the backs of the last teeth in each corner of the mouth. 

Thumb, Finger, and Pacifier Habits

Finger and pacifier sucking is completely normal for babies and young children.  It provides security, and for young babies, it is a way to make contact with and learn about the world. In fact, babies begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs even before they are born.

Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between 2 and 4 years of age.  However, some children continue these habits over long periods of time.  In these children, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come in properly.  Frequent or intense habits over a prolonged period of time can affect the way the child’s teeth bite together, as well as the growth of the jaws and bones that support the teeth.

At Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry, our pediatric dentists will carefully watch the way your child’s teeth erupt and jaws develop, keeping the sucking habit in mind at all times.  Because persistent habits may cause long term problems, intervention may be recommended for children beyond 3 years of age.

Most children stop sucking habits on their own, but some children need the help of their parents and their pediatric dentist.  When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, our pediatric dentists can encourage your child to stop, as well as talk about what happens to the teeth and jaws if your child does not stop.  This advice, coupled with support from parents, helps most children quit.  If this approach does not work, our pediatric dentists may recommend ways to change the behavior, including a mouth appliance that interferes with sucking habits.


Fluoride is a compound that contains fluorine, a natural element that is found in ground water, lakes, and oceans.  Using small amounts of fluoride on a routine basis can help prevent tooth decay.  In areas where fluoride does not occur naturally, it may be added to community water supplies.  Research shows that community water fluoridation has lowered decay rates by over 50 percent, which means that fewer children grow up with cavities.  Fluoride can be found as an active ingredient in many dental products such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, gels, and varnish.

Fluoride inhibits loss of minerals from tooth enamel and encourages remineralization (strengthening areas that are weakened and beginning to develop cavities).  Fluoride also affects bacteria that cause cavities, discouraging acid attacks that break down the tooth.  The risk for decay is reduced even more when fluoride is combined with a healthy diet and good oral hygiene.

At Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry, our pediatric dentists consider many factors before recommending a fluoride supplement.  Your child’s age, risk of developing dental decay and dietary sources of fluoride are important considerations.  Infant formulas contain different amounts of fluoride.  Bottled, filtered, and well waters also vary in the amount of fluoride they contain.  Our pediatric dentists can help determine if your child is receiving (and not exceeding) the recommended amount.

Using fluoride for the prevention and control of decay is proven to be both safe and effective.  Nevertheless, products containing fluoride should be stored out of the reach of young children.  Too much fluoride can cause fluorosis of developing permanent teeth. Fluorosis usually is usually mild tiny white specks or streaks on teeth that often are unnoticeable. In severe cases of fluorosis, the enamel may be pitted with brown discoloration.  Development of fluorosis depends on the amount, duration, and timing of excessive fluoride intake.  The appearance of teeth affected by fluorosis can be greatly improved by a variety of treatments in esthetic dentistry.

Your child should use toothpaste containing fluoride and displaying the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.  Brushing twice a day (after breakfast and before bedtime) provides greater benefits than brushing once daily.  Parents should dispense toothpaste to prevent their young children from swallowing too much.

For children under two-years-old, use a smear (thickness of a piece of paper) of fluoridated toothpaste.  For those children ages 2 to 5 years able to spit on command, a pea-sized amount is recommended.

Topical fluoride is a preventive agent applied to tooth enamel.  It comes in a number of different forms.  A dental professional places gels or foams in trays that are held against the teeth for up to 4 minutes.  Fluoride varnish is brushed or “painted” on the enamel.  Varnish is especially useful for young patients and those with special needs who may not tolerate fluoride trays.
Children who benefit the most from fluoride are those at highest risk for decay.  Risk factors include a history of previous cavities, a diet high in sugar or carbohydrates, orthodontic appliances, and certain medical conditions such as dry mouth.

Regular Dental Visits

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental check-up at least twice a year for most children.  Some children need more frequent dental visits because of increased risk of tooth decay, unusual growth patterns or poor oral hygiene.  Your pediatric dentist will let you know the best appointment schedule for your child.

Regular dental visits help your child stay cavity-free.  Teeth cleanings remove debris that build up on the teeth, irritate the gums and cause decay.  Fluoride treatments renew the fluoride content in the enamel, strengthening teeth and preventing cavities.  Hygiene instructions improve your child’s brushing and flossing, leading to cleaner teeth and healthier gums.

Tooth decay is not the only reason for a dental visit.  At Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry, our pediatric dentists provide an ongoing assessment of changes in your child’s oral health.  For example, your child may need additional fluoride, dietary changes, or sealants for ideal dental health.  The pediatric dentist may identify orthodontic problems and suggest treatment to guide the teeth as they emerge in the mouth.

At your child’s dental check-up, our pediatric dentists will review your child’s medical and dental history.  He or she will gently examine your child’s teeth, oral tissues and jaws.  The teeth will be cleaned and polished, followed by the application of a fluoride solution.

Our pediatric dentists will not just talk to you about dental health, they will talk to your child with easily understandable words, pictures and ideas.  Your child will be motivated to take responsibility for a healthy smile.

In accordance with the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, our pediatric dentists recommend X-rays only when necessary to protect your child’s dental health.  For example, X-rays may be needed to diagnose tooth decay or abnormalities.  X-rays may also be required for orthodontic treatment. Your pediatric dentist will discuss the need for X-rays with you before any are taken.


Since every child is unique, the need for dental X-ray films varies from child to child.  Films are taken only after reviewing your child’s medical and dental histories and performing a clinical examination, and only when they are likely to yield information that a visual examination cannot.

In general, children need X-rays more often than adults.  Their mouths grow and change rapidly.  They are more susceptible than adults to tooth decay.  For children with a high risk of tooth decay, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends X-ray examinations every six months to detect cavities developing between the teeth.  Children with a low risk of tooth decay require X-rays less frequently.

X-ray films detect much more than cavities.  For example, X-rays may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.  X-rays allow our dentists to diagnose and treat conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination.  If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable and affordable.

X-ray films are recommended only when necessary to evaluate and monitor your child’s oral health.  The frequency of X-ray films is determined by your child’s individual needs.  If your child’s previous dentist obtained X-ray films, request copies be sent to our pediatric dentist to help reduce radiation exposure.

At Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry, our pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation.  With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small.  In fact, dental X-rays represent a far smaller risk than undetected and untreated dental problems.

Lead body aprons and shields help protect your child.  Today’s equipment filters out unnecessary X-rays and restricts the X-ray beam to the area of interest.  High-speed film, digital X-rays, and proper shielding assure that your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure.


Even if your child brushes and flosses carefully, it is difficult (sometimes impossible) to clean the tiny grooves and pits on certain teeth.  Food and bacteria build up in these crevices, placing your child in danger of tooth decay.  Sealants “seal out” food and plaque, thus reducing the risk of decay.

Sealants protect the grooved and pitted surfaces of the teeth, especially the chewing surfaces of back teeth where most cavities in children are found.  Made of clear or shaded plastic, sealants are applied to the teeth to help keep them cavity-free.

The application of a sealant is quick and comfortable and usually only takes only one visit.  The tooth is first cleaned, then conditioned and dried.  The sealant is flowed onto the grooves of the tooth and hardened with a special light.  Your child will be able to eat right after the appointment.

The natural flow of saliva usually keeps the smooth surfaces of teeth clean but does not wash out the grooves and fissures.  The teeth most at risk of decay, and therefore most in need of sealants, are the six-year and twelve-year molars.  Many times the permanent premolars and primary molars will also benefit from sealant coverage.  Any tooth, however, with grooves or pits may benefit from the protection of sealants.  As each child’s situation is unique, our pediatric dentists at Mid-Michigan Pediatric Dentistry will advise you when and if sealants will benefit your child.

Emergency Care

Your child’s risk for dental injuries can be reduced greatly by following a few simple suggestions.  First, reduce the risk for oral injury in sports by wearing protective gear, including a mouthguard.  Second, always use a car seat for young children and require seat belts for everyone else in the car.  Third, childproof your home to prevent falls and electrical injuries.  Regular dental check-ups provide your dentist an opportunity to discuss additional age-appropriate preventive strategies with your child.

For a chipped or fractured tooth, contact our pediatric dentists.  Quick action can save the tooth, prevent infection, and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment.  Rinse the mouth with water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling if the lip also was injured.  If you can find the broken tooth fragment, place it in cold milk or water and bring it with you to the dental office.

For a knocked out baby tooth, the tooth should not be replanted because of the potential for subsequent damage to the developing permanent tooth.  Follow-up with our pediatric dentists to ensure proper healing.

For a knocked out permanent tooth, find the tooth and rinse it gently with milk if dirty (do not scrub or clean it with soap, use only water).  If possible, replace the tooth in the socket immediately and hold it there with clean gauze or a wash cloth.  If you can’t put the tooth back in the socket, place the tooth in a clean container with cold milk, saliva, or wrapped in a moist cloth.  Seek pediatric dental treatment as soon as possible (call our office for after hours emergency service information).  The faster you act, the better your chances of saving the tooth.

For a severe blow to the head or jaw fracture, you need immediate medical attention.  A severe head injury can be life threatening.  Keep in mind that an emergency medical team might be able to reach you faster than you can get to the hospital.

Space Maintainers

Space maintainers are appliances made of metal or plastic that is custom fit to your child’s mouth.  They are small and unobtrusive in appearance.  Most children easily adjust to them after the first few days.

A baby tooth usually stays in place until a permanent tooth underneath pushes it out and takes its place.  Unfortunately, some children lose a baby tooth too soon.  A tooth might be knocked out accidentally or removed because of dental disease. When a tooth is lost too early, our pediatric dentists may recommend a space maintainer to prevent future space loss and dental problems.

Baby teeth are important to your child’s present and future dental health.  They encourage normal development of the jaw bones and muscles.  They save space for the permanent teeth and guide them into position.  Remember that some baby teeth are not replaced until a child is 12 or 14 years old.

If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the neighboring teeth may tilt or drift into the empty space.  Teeth in the other jaw may move up or down to fill the gap.  When adjacent teeth shift into the empty space, they create a lack of space in the jaw for the permanent teeth.  Therefore, permanent teeth are crowded and come in crooked.  If left untreated, the condition may require extensive orthodontic treatment.

Space maintainers hold open the empty space left by a lost tooth.  They steady the remaining teeth, preventing movement until the permanent tooth takes its natural position in the jaw.  It is more affordable, and easier on your child, to keep teeth in normal positions with a space maintainer than to move them back in place with orthodontic treatment.

Pediatric dentists have four rules for space maintainer care.  First, avoid sticky sweets or chewing gum.  Second, do not tug or push on the space maintainer with your fingers or tongue.  Third, keep it clean with conscientious brushing and flossing.  Fourth, continue regular dental visits.