Child's First Dentist Visit

Parent Q&A

  • Toddler dentistry without tears?

    (5 replies)

    Has anyone had a great experience taking a toddler to the dentist in Berkeley or Oakland? After reading reviews of pediatric dentists, I allowed myself to hope that their tricks and techniques could usher even the littlest ones through without tears. But we had our first appointment (at 14 months) and it didn’t live up to that high bar—the people and setup were very nice (toys to play with while waiting, etc.), but when it came to the exam they just said it was normal for him to cry. Looking ahead to a visit at 20 months, I’d love to know: do any of the Berkeley/Oakland pediatric practices have the secret sauce for a happy toddler visit? Or is that simply an unrealistic goal at this age?
    If you know of a practice with great techniques for making toddlers think brushing is important or fun, that would be great to know also!

    We had 14 years of great success with Dr. Matsuishi on Stockton Street, and continued to have great care in a soothing environment with Dr. Ching, his successor.  Their office used to give tours to nursery school kids, to help them feel comfortable in the office.  They would let you schedule a pre-visit to reduce anxiety.  

    My daughter had her first appointment at 19 months, thought it was great and has loved going to the dentist ever since. She sees Dr. Nakazato at Aloha Pediatric Dentistry, although that first visit was with Dr. Wampler (who I think has since retired). She saw Dr. Khosrovani there once when she was 5 and had a dental emergency. All three of them have been great.

    Dr. Vivian Lopez and assistants are great. I wouldn't say we achieved zero tears with every procedure, but I always felt the staff was even more patient and definitely more wise than I was. My preteen kids are still totally comfotable with going there despite some fillings, a retainer, one extraction, and a spacer. So they must be doing something right! With a 14 month old it sounds like it should be just cleanings and inspections though, so shouldn't be too many tears. Then again, I'm not sure I brought my kids to the dentist that young.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


When to see a dentist for the first check-up?

Sept 2009

The recent post about the 16 month with tooth decay has me worried... when should we see a dentist? Our 18 month started to get his teeth kind of 'late' - he was about 14 months before we saw any teeth (while all his other friends seemed to have a full mouth by then). He now has four on the top front, two on the bottom (the other two are just starting to break) and one molar in the back bottom which seemed to pop out of nowhere one day recently. Should we bring him to a dentist now? He hasn't taken fluoride supplements but he does brush his teeth regularly with either just water, Earth's Best toothpaste or sometimes with a tiny dab of our Tom's toothpaste (which our doctor said is okay and will give him some of the needed fluoride?). Thank you for your help BPN! anon

Simple: call your future dentist and ask when they'd like to see your child first. My older daughter's dentist said 2 yrs. We moved and the new dentist wanted to see our youngest at 1 to get her used to it and instruct us as parents as to how we can keep her in good oral health. If the teeth look good and you are caring for the teeth, don't worry! The tooth decay in the earlier post is rare. But, if you have insurance and the dentist is willing, sooner rather than later. Why not? Pro-dentite

My dentist said age three. Your pediatrician should be looking at teeth at yearly check-up and other well baby visits. Good Luck

I believe that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one year, but my dentist wouldn't see my son until he was 3. Maybe a pediatric dentist would go a little sooner. Remember that your child has to be old enough to sit in a chair or your lap and have someone else prod around in his mouth, and even then the dentist can only see superficial stuff until the child is old enough for X-rays. No point stressing the child until you think he or she can do what is needed for a check-up to be meaningful. all in good time

I heard to take them to the dentist by age 3. I think our first appt was at about 2 and 9 months. It was mostly about acclimating her to the dentist at that point. sarah

I would say when they start pre-school (age 3) UNLESS your toddler is in the habit of falling asleep with milk on her teeth, either breastfeeding or a bottle. in that case there is some risk of tooth decay and you should get it checked out. There are a lot of recommendations on the BPN website for pediatric dentists - you could call some of them and see what they say.

Worried first dentist visit will be traumatic

July 2004

Our regular dentist tell us that our two year olds (twins) should make their first routine trip to a pediatric dentist right about now for an evaluation of the condition of their teeth and two year old molars. I've been putting this visit off because of my own concerns about how a trip to the dentist could be resoundingly unpleasant; I've heard that children are strapped into the chair and their mouth is pried open for cleanings. Since my girls cry and hardily resist during toothbrushing, I haven't beening looking foward to a dental visit. However, I can't stand by and let their teeth become neglected either soooo..... Can anyone fill me in on what to expect at the pediatric dentist? Am I delaying for no good reason? Also, should I plan this visit with two adults since I'll be bringing in two 2-year-olds? Any insight or advice is helpful. mom of teethy toddlers

Both of my children LOVE to go to the dentist. I felt the same way that you do, but a good pediatric dentist really is the answer. My older child was quite good about brushing, but was clingy at the time I took her the first time. It wasn't even an issue. The dentist has such a child-friendly office with murals on the walls, great toys, balloons, etc... She willingly had her teeth brushed and examined and even had her mouth x-rayed without a fuss and without wanting me. I had the option of sitting beside her or remaining in an open viewing area. (not behind glass, simply a comfortable sitting area with tv and magazines near the examination area.) My youngest child HATES to have her teeth brushed but will pop her mouth open upon request for this dentist. I would recommend taking your twins sooner than later. You'll feel reassured that a trip to the dentist is manageable. Good luck! Our dentist is Dr. Amy Beth Harmon at Pediatric Dentistry of Pleasant Hill . 925-947-1188. This may not be close to your home, but I promise that their professionalism and child-friendly office make it worth the trip! laura

There is absolutely no reason that your children's first visit to the dentist needs to be traumatic. Our pediatrician suggested a visit to the dentist and on the recommendation from a friend, we recently took our 3 year old to her first visit.

We talked about the dentist alot before then and even read some books to her. The visit couldn't have gone better. The office was totally geared for children of all ages. The setting was very open and I got to be with her the whole time.

I was so pleased with every aspect of the visit. Give the office a call. Alameda Pediatric Dentistry 2125 Whitehall Place Alameda, CA 510-521-5016 Linnea

I highly recommend Dr. David Perry - or any of his associates - at Alameda Pediatric Dentistry . It's a bit of a hike for us, we live in Oakland, but worth the trip. They would NEVER strap a child down to clean teeth. In fact, they do everything they can to make the dentist a fun and enjoyable place to be. Be prepared to stay awhile, because they let the kids play and wander in their spacious offices and kind of let the cleaning and exam happen organically as the child seems comfortable. They will LOVE going to the dentist, as my now 4 Y.O. truly does! Happy Mom

Hi, You don't mention where you are located but I would like to recommend that you take your twins to Dr. Neil Katsura . He has two offices one is in Berkeley near Alta Bates hospital. I think the other is located in Albany. I was delighted by the number of distractions provided for even the smallest of children. It was like taking my sons to the arcade. The staff is knowledgable but more importantly, they LOVE children. Kimberli

I took my son to a pediatric dentist today. The office was very kid-friendly - stuffed animals/fish/toys all over the walls and ceiling. The staff were friendly, knew how to talk to children, and easily convinced my wary son to open his mouth for the cleaning and fluoride treatment. He didn't want to lay back in the chair for the cleaning, so the hygienist cleaned his teeth while he sat up. They didn't force anything on him, and my son said he had a good time and would go back again. The entire procedure was very quick. The dentist he went to is Denise Bass Allen (510 763-2022) at 2100 Broadway. We saw Dr. Chang. I wouldn't bring both children at the same time, even with 2 adults. If one gets upset, the other may get upset too, and then you have two upset kids to deal with. Good luck - it was easy and painless. Lynn

My kids go to Denise Bass Allen , a pediatric dentist in Oakland, and both went for the first time at 2.5 years of age. It was and remains all very calm and reassuring, and in the 4 years or so we've gone, I have never seen ANY child strapped down or even anything remotely like that, and the first exam is more or less just counting the teeth and a very simple exam. Not scary, and neither of my kids were worried about it at all. Indeed, they've both been downright cooperative. From the tone of your post, it sounds as if you may have had some bad experiences at the dentist, but if you don't tell your kids, they sure won't learn to be frightened from any present-day real-life experiences. Go ahead and phone for an appt., and tell the kids how swell it'll be. Wendy

I had your same fears about taking my son to the dentist. Mostly because I have a huge fear of dentists given some bad experiences as a child and terrible teeth which have required a lot of dental work. That said, I have found a wonderful dentist for my son. My son actually looks forward to going to the dentist (even after having 5 cavities filled - unfortunately, he inherited my bad teeth)! His name is Dr. Perry and he is in Alameda. I don't have the phone number handy, but feel free to e-mail me if you have any trouble finding it or if you want some additional information. Best of Luck! Nancy

No! Times have changed! There should be no strapping down of kids and no forcing of anything at a pediatric dental visit! First, our pediatrician recommended starting visits at 3, not 2, and that's when our now-4 1/2-year old went for her first visit.

Our dentist (Dr. Bob Khalil , in Orinda) has a large, open room with several areas for the kid-size dental chairs, with no walls in between, so everyone can see and hear everyone else (no scary rooms behind closed doors).

First our daughter was given a new toothbrush of her color choice, and asked to brush her own teeth at a child sized sink, with toothpaste flavor of her went on happily and gently from there, with the kid ASKED to do things (sit in the chair, lean back, etc...) not TOLD.

She felt she was in control, and did everything they asked. They explained every little thing they did, and proceeded at her speed. She's been every 6 months since, and LOVES going to the dentist. Good luck! Heidi

I recommend the office of Dr. Katsura (and others). NOBODY there is strapped down, and no mouths are pried open - for a first visit or any other one. They are SUPERB at making kids feel comfortable, and you can be right there with them. For a first routine check-up, they will do only as much as they can get away with with a particular child. They know how important it is to make a good first impression! It is probably a good idea to bring another adult, or to bring them in on two separate visits so each child can have your full attention/presence. R.K.

My 15-year-old was at the dentist last week for a lengthy appointment. While she was there two new patients, each around two years old, came for their first visits. Neither was ''strapped down'' , nor were their mouths pried open. In fact, each had a great time, was happy, left with a smile, lots of stickers, and a prize from the prize box. This was at Dr. Katsura 's office (on Ensenada, off Solano). The kids are shown the dentist's tools, their teeth are counted, there are toys to play with, it's all very low-key and comfortable for them. Please try not to let your anxieties color your children's experience. I don't think there's any need to have two adults there. I highly recommend Dr. Katsura and the others in this practice. They have an office off Solano, one near Alta Bates, and another in Orinda. We did not have as positive an experience at another pediatric dentist when my kids were little, but despite a number of difficult dental procedures, my younger daughter still doesn't mind going to see Dr. Katsura. Judy

No dentist, pediatric or otherwise, should strap patients down and pry their mouths open! (Unless it is Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors.) We have been extremely happy with the pediatric dentistry practice of Drs. Wampler and Katsura. We see Dr. Bob Khalil at the Colby Street and Orinda offices. The process is pretty easy on the kids. When mine were smaller, the staff even suggested that I lay on the chair and let my kids lay on top of me. They made notes about my kids' interests and ask about them at checkups. They are very gentle and the entire staff has always been great to my kids. They have 2 offices in Berkeley and one in Orinda: Colby St., Berkeley, tel. 510/848-6494 Ensenada, Berkeley, tel. 510/528-1546 David Rd., Orinda, tel. 925/253-8190 Don't put off going, though. The sooner you start the process, the more quickly your girls will get used to it. They really just check out their mouths at that point. No xrays or anything like that. It could be very easy and certainly painless. Mary

My daughters LOVE Dr. Bob from the Wampler/Katsura office in Berkeley. They actually *look forward* to seeing him! (And if you knew my daughters, that says a LOT). Carrie

My daughter had her first visit to a pediatric dentist at the age of 2 1/2. She wasn't wild about teeth-brushing either, but I had some concerns about the spacing of her baby teeth and wanted to take her in. We went to Dr. Perry in Alameda - even though we live in Berkeley it was worth driving over because his office is fantastic. There is no strapping down & forcing there. The office has lots of dentist chairs in a common area where kids can watch a movie on TV or play video games (older kids) or read books, and all work in progress is visible to all. For my daughter's first visit, we were in a private room, but the door was open. Dr. Perry is very kind and has a great manner with kids. He never forced my daughter to do anything. Nevertheless, he did have to look at her teeth and she wouldn't open her mouth, so he had me hold her in my lap, facing me, and then tilt her backward, and he very quickly counted her teeth. She did cry a little, but not a big howling fit (and she is certainly capable of those.) The interesting thing is that her memory of the visit to the dentist has become one of her favorite things to talk about - she will walk up to complete strangers and say ''I went to the dentist and he counted my teeth. 1, 2, 3...'' We've been back one time since and actually managed a flouride treatment! I really think if you choose a good kid-centric place like this, your daughters will be fine. and now she wants to be a dentist when she grows up

Strapping down and prying open? Yikes! I took my son to the dentist for the first time when he was almost two, so here's my experience. There is no ''chair'' there but rather more like a flat, padded bench where the child lays down. On the first visit, I chatted with the dentist, gave him a medical and social history and asked any questions that I had. Then the dentist looked into my son's mouth. He was a little squirmy, but the dentist told him that he was only counting his teeth (which he did). He was wearing gloves but used no instruments. He looked at the teeth, but never even cleaned them. That was it. He got a sticker and a new toothbrush and we were on our way. At that age, I think it's important to have a good experience and set up some good memories. If you're really worried, I would ask for recommendations from other parents and maybe even visit the office before, without the twins. If you feel confident, they will sense that too. And I don't think that you would need two adults, since the dentist can look at the twins one at a time while the other is sitting on your lap or playing. But I guess you know their energy level better. Feel free to email if you would like the name of our dentist. Ruth

Dentist wouldn't allow me in exam room with 3-year-old

May 2004

Last week my 3 1/2 year old daughter had her first appointment at the dentist. This dental office is one I have gone to for years and have always referred everyone to - telling everyone how lucky I am to truly love going to my dentist. I had even gone in about a week before my daughter's appointment for my own procedure and asked about her upcoming appointment and wasn't told anything in particular (although I did express concern about having x-rays administered). I guess I always just assumed that I would be in there with her - when have I ever not been? Well, anyway, they 'called her in' by herself - told me it was so she could create a relationship with the dentist and it caught me completely off guard. It was our first time and I thought I really trusted this office so I ignored my own instincts and thought this must be the way things are and I just need to let her grow up. So she comes out after all is said and done (x-rays, flouride, etc) to me in the waiting room. The lady taking my money asked the assistant 'did you end up doing the x- rays?' which made me realize they had remembered my wish to avoid them and also made the paranoid in me wonder if they did this to 'get me out of the way' so they could do whatever standard procedures they wanted to without a hassle. She was fine - she is generally quite confident and game - although she did ask me the next day 'why did you let them take me?' which devistated me. Even before her comment I was feeling a bit betrayed by them and like I had betrayed my girl's trust by letting her go when that wasn't what we had prepared ourselves for. My questions are: is it normal to take the kid in alone on the first visit? What are other people's first dental experiences like? Are x-rays and flouride universally required for 3 year olds (she had no cavities)? Thanks for any input - Still feeling tweaky

My kids go to a pediatric dentist,and I suspect they are much better equipped to deal with kids than an adult dentist. Our experiences have been much different. The parents come into the room which is a big open room with four dental chairs and an area right there for the parents to hang out. The child can even lay on top of the parent if need be or sit in their laps. My oldest daughter had her first set of standard xrays at five (my 2yo had some too but that was related to trauma to her teeth). I think you should consider going to a pediatric dentist. there are lots of good ones (see the archives; I go to the Wampler Katsura practice near Alta BAtes, and we see Dr. Carol Miyahara). Hilary

You sound like just the same kind of Mom I am. My son is now 9 and I still go with him into the dental exam. The staff hardly raises their eyebrows. Just conduct yourself like you know that what you're doing is right for your child, and the staff should not mind -- especially with a 3 year old. If they do, find another pediatric dentist. I accompany my son because he wants me to, so why not? and I couldn't his tolerate feeling I had somehow abandoned him. He is slowly gaining independence and I'm okay with his own rate of progress. My other reasons for going in with him are so that I can be sure they don't give him fluoride. His file is clearly marked ''No Fluoride'' but once they did forget, and I was there to stop them. My son still has NO cavities at 9 yrs old. Also, I don't want them to do x-rays as often as they want to, and this way I can monitor that, too. Follow your Gut Instincts

Pediatric dentists do exactly what you were expecting. Our dentist doesn't even consider x-rays until they're 5. Perhaps if there is cause to take them before, they will, but not routinely. They also want parents in with the child, not only to make it easy on parent and child, but so that you're informed about your child's dental health. Our first visit was due to trauma @ 2.5 and I sat in the chair and my son lay on top of me. The doctor did nothing but examine the trauma area, and discussed future, possible outcomes. We waited until he was over 3 for his first cleaning and checkup, which was a bit more invasive, but he had no complaints. We just had a second visit, and he was a model patient, very relaxed and cooperative, and awaiting a chance to pick from the prize box. There are several pediatric dental practices in the EBay - most of them are on the website, we've been very happy with Katsura, Wampler, et. al, and see Arnold Nakazato, and have had only a positive experience. I believe all the dentists in this practice are equally competent and use the same approach. linda

My son's first appt was actually at about 2yo because I wanted him to become comfortable at an early age. We go to a pediatric dental practice, so they are very sensitive about kids' and parents' feelings. My son is now almost 8 and still does not want me to not be there with him. I can empathize though with your feeling betrayed and that you didn't really get to do what you intended. I've been in those kind of situations and also kick myself after. If your daughter seems ok about it now, just chalk it up to experience. Now you'll know better what to do next time. As far as x-rays and fluoride, nothing is really required, I think. As the parent, it's really your job to decide what treatments she gets. As long as you ask questions and learn the pros and cons, the ultimate decision is yours. Good luck. Ruth

I think you are right to be concerned. Although, I have a friend whose kids go to a dentist with the same ''kid goes it alone with dentist'' procedure as yours does. So I guess it isn't unheard of. I don't let my kids (5 and 9) see their doctor or their dentist without me present. That will change when they are older. For now, you should insist on being in the room. You don't have to worry about what the dentist or assistants think. Just tell them that you are her mother, she is very young, and you are not comfortable with it. Period. It is your right. As for the x-rays, 3 1/2 seems very young for that. My daughter has been going to the dentist since she was 2 1/2 or 3 and she just had her first x-rays this year (at age 5). Lastly, you might consider taking her to a pediatric dentist. They deal with all kinds of kids and parents. My own dentist flat out told me that he thought I should take my daughter to a pediatric dentist. He thought it was better for the kids to be in a kid-friendly environment at first. He said that once they get the hang of what the dentist needs to do, then they can go to regular dentist. If you need a name, we go to the offices of Dr. Wampler. (There are 5 dentists there. We see Dr. Khalil). They have two offices in Berkeley (on Colby and on Ensenada) and one in Orinda. Good luck and trust your gut! anon

Your experience sounds very unusual and you should probably switch to a pediatric dentist. I love my dentist (Dr. Marchelle King), who is a family dentist, but was more comfortable taking my kids to a pediatric dentist. Dr. King recommended Dr. Vivian Lopez. My kids (5 and 2.5) had their first visit last week and the experience was great. The hygenist was great with the kids (my 5 year old son can be very shy and cautious) and Dr. Lopez was very laid back. I was with the kids the whole time, except when my son had x-rays. If he had been uncomfortable going to a separate room with the hygenist, I don't think it would have been an issue for me to go with him. The dentist said that 4.5 is the standard age for first x-rays -- so my 2.5 yr old daughter didn't have them. My son got a fluoride treatment. They tried to give one to my daughter, she resisted, so they quit trying immediately -- no pressure! My son also swore off sweets for a few days thanks to a lecture on healthy snacks from the dentist. There are a number of good pediatric dentists in the area -- you and your daughter would probably be happier with one of them.

I'd be pissed. Talk to your dentist again and tell them that YOU as the parent would like to know the procedures before they are administered to your child. You have the right (and the insurance...) to decline if you would like. I took my daughter in this year too. She just turned 4 in March and we went to a pediatric dentist who goes very slowly and doesn't take x-rays or apply fouride as standard procedure. I didn't take her to my own dentist because i felt that she needed special handling as a small child. Definately reiterate to your own dentist that you are perfectly happy with your own treatment there but very unhappy with the way they handled you/your child and that you expect the office and the dentists there to listen to you. liz

I can't reply to your exact question, other than to tell you that when my daughter's pediatric dentist said that it was a requirement of their office that the parent not be present during the filling of a cavity, we left that office immediately and never returned. I had/have the same feeling that your have--I had never before left my child during any medical/dental procedure, and had no intention of making this the first time. I say trust your motherly gut feelings and don't allow anyone to do anything to or with your child that makes you uncomfortable. I would be very clear with the dentist about your future expectations and if they are not comfortable with them (as our first dentist was not), I'd find a new dentist for your daughter. We've been very happy with Dr. Neil Katsura; my daughter has had a lot of dental work, and I've been with her every step of the way! Judy

My children had their first (and all subsequent) dental exams at Dr. Neal Katsura's office. They could not have been better experiences. Dr. Neal Katsura invited us to the back. He made my daughter very comfortable in a bright colorful room with toys, etc. She was very comfortable with him by the time he brought her to the yellow ''banana'' chair and playfully prepared her for x-rays. She had a WONDERFUL first experience and was her little brother's best coach when he went at the same age (3). We've seen Dr. Bob and another dentist there. All are fabulous with kids. It's terrible that I can't remember his name, but he pulled her two lower front teeth and made sure I brought my son out of eye range so he wouldn't freak out later. My daughter had no idea how scary it looked to me (I've never had a tooth pulled). He was calm, collected and quick. She was very matter of fact about it b/c of the prep by the dentist. They are all about kids. Dr. Neal Katsura's in Berkeley on Colby: (510) 848-6494. Won't ever change dentists

SWITCH DENTISTS!!! x rays are a huge pet peeve of mine. There is no reason that any dentist has ever been able to give me about why i should have x rays that makes sense. If you brush and floss regularly (every day), and are a healthy non smoker, the odds of something being wrong that is detectable only by x ray is less than miniscule. And even then, it's not like it's going to be life threatening, although to listen to most dentists, you'd think it was! Medical doctors don't threaten you if you decide not to get a mammogram or colonoscopy--they just explain why it's in your best interest to do so--the decision is up to the individual--it is their body, after all! And the last time I checked, it's MY mouth!! But I have had a dentist actually kick me out of his practice because I refuse to get x rays, or have my children x rayed. If I need a crown, or am having pain, that's another story--I am willing to have a tooth x rayed in that situation. But to recieve ''routine'' x rays is not something I will allow myself or my children to be subjected to. Dentists love to say how the amount of radiation is less than you receive walking down a street in the sunshine. Which makes absolutely no sense. Why would I want ANY more unnecessary radiation? The only conclusion I can make is that it is an extra thing they can bill for. To add insult to injury, your dentist did this behind your back. I would write a letter to the office, and also to the American Dental Association, and the Better Business Bureau. What they did was unethical. Also, you should NEVER be separated from an anxious child, or a child who just wants you nearby for security. I now have a fabulous dentist, Dr. Ruddell of Oakland, who does not insist on routine x rays. ( I discussed this BEFORE joining the practice) I think he would prefer if we got them, but he doesn't make a big deal of it. He also let me sit beside my (big baby) 13 year old while she had a filling done. Good luck, and I'm sorry about your experience. ann

I can't wait to hear advice/other experiences about this one. . . Anyway, just two comments: 1. I'm sure in following the office protocol, you were just trying to make things go smoothly for your daughter. AND, you were caught off-guard. However, next time I'm sure you'll go with your gut instict, which is always best. 2. Feel free to assert your right as a parent to have control over how your daughter's relationships are ''created'' with other adults. You are with her at her other doctor appointments, etc. and I'm sure she has plenty of relationhips with adults that have been established under your supervision. paula

In response to the issue about x-rays at a dental office, it is necessary to have them in order to identify cavities. A dentist cannot perform appropriate diagnosis of one's teeth without them. While it is certainly not mandatory to have x- rays if you don't want to keep your teeth, it is advisable if you want to maintain healthy teeth. You may want to go to a dentist who uses digital radiography which is totally harmless. anon

Dentist for 18 month old?

March 2004

I'm confused - I've read that the American Dental Assoc recommends that children see a dentist at around 1 year - but I've called several and found they don't take children this young, and all the posts I reviewed on the site referred to first visits at around the 2.5 - 3 year old range. Has anyone taken their 12 - 24 month child in for a check-up, and if so, where? Thank you

I asked my dentist about this...when my daughter was about 2 y.o. He said she should come in when she feels comfortable around him and the setting. She's 2 1/2 now and hasn't been yet. I'm not really worried about it. I have an appt. next week in which I will take her to to get the feel of it, and she's old enough now to understand what's happening. If she's up for it, great, if not, we'll try again when she's 3.

We took my daughter at 3 years, and the dentist was delighted to see her then, and not at all upset that we waited that long. No dentist I spoke with wanted to see her much earlier than that. I think that as long as you are brushing your kid's teeth (that young, I think we just brushed with a wet brush, no paste of any kind, not even the flouride-free kind) and vigilant about no juice/milk right before sleep, you can relax. On the other hand, if there are signs of decay or pain because of teeth (outside of teething pain, of course!), an earlier visit to the dentist might be warranted. Good Luck-- Donna L.

13-month-old with 6 teeth - first dentist visit?

March 2002

I have a 13 month old baby with 6 teeth. I am a little confused about when to take her for her first dental visit. I have read different opinions ranging from 6 months after she gets her first tooth to 2 years old. Does anyone know? Thanks. Julie

My children's (pediatric) dentist recommends starting dental visits when a child has 8 teeth and is at least 18 months old. I have 3 children, the youngest of whom is almost 2, and from my experience, this advice has worked for us.

Usually, the first visit is short and consists of counting the teeth and a gentle cleaning. My kids have always sat on my lap for the first visit. If nothing else, it helps the child get used to going to the dentist. At this point, my kids enjoy their dental appointments. Charlotte

For whatever it's worth, we finally took our son to the dentist at 3.5 years old. My son would not open his mouth. The dentist didn't insist, and set another appointment - for six months later!

When should my 9-month-old start going to the dentist?

May 1998

My 9 month old son has 9 teeth now (8 front and 1 molar) and I'm wondering, when should he start going to the dentist? I've heard a lot of people say at 2 years, but I also heard a commercial from the American Dental Association saying they should start at 1 year. I looked on the UCB Parents Newsletter archives at recommendations for a pediatric dentist, but does anyone know of a dentist in the Oakland/Berkeley area that is specifically good with very little kids? Thanks for any help you can give. Heather

Dr. Matsuishi in El Cerrito believes that as soon as they've got enough teeth, you have to be concerned with dental hygene (phone: 524-4633). I started taking Chris to him at 18 months (didn't get his first teeth till 12 months) and was very impressed with Dr. Matsuishi and his staff. Beth