Taking Young Children to the Dentist

Child dental examIt’s unlikely a child with unhealthy teeth and serious cavities will have fun at their first dental visit. Cavities are difficult to treat in young mouths and most dentists suggest sedation or general anesthesia – a scary experience for everyone.

Taking toddlers to the dentist is suggested by the ADA as an opportunity for the dentist to teach you how to prevent cavities in your children’s teeth. Remember a dentist cannot prevent a cavity – he or she can only explain how a cavity forms and give you advice how to prevent them. Dentists can warn you about soft areas, plaque and diet, but in many cases these appointments are too late for prevention –cavities may have already formed.

Pass it on!

A child with healthy teeth usually has a wonderful first dental experience – marked by praise, fun, and celebration!

The most effective way to protect baby teeth from cavities is with xylitol and the easiest time to prevent a cavity is before, or when, baby teeth erupt. If you are a regular visitor to this site, you already know this – so perhaps you can help other parents learn the truth.

Cavity bacteria can be eradicated from parents’ mouths through the regular use of xylitol and in this way the transmission of cavity-germs to their baby can be prevented. This advice is so practical and useful – I wonder if OB-GYN teams should be explaining how to prevent cavities in baby teeth at a time when parents haven’t even considered the dental health of their unborn baby.

Cleaning baby teeth

Many dentists automatically give office cleanings, whether you need them or not. Perhaps you should ask if your child needs a cleaning or is it being done as a pre-determined protocol?  (There is no science to support professionally cleaning baby teeth unless there is calcified plaque. Most cleanings are done for the questionable benefit of getting your child used to the drill in their mouth or just because……)

spoonful of granular xylitol crystals

Parents can clean baby’s mouth at home using a solution of xylitol made with 1/8th teaspoon of xylitol crystals dissolved in 1 oz water. Wipe this over the gums and teeth in a baby’s mouth, especially as baby teeth erupt. When the baby grows, this solution can be brushed onto teeth and used in place of toothpaste. Zellie Bears are soft and dissolve quickly for a toddler treat, or you can give xylitol crystals from a spoon or in a drink of water.

The secret is to have enough xylitol every day to prevent plaque and cavities. Studies show that children with healthy teeth at 4 years old are more likely to have healthier teeth for life, and that children who eat xylitol have almost 50% less ear infections.

Evidence Based studies show that frequent use of small amounts of xylitol inactivates cavity bacteria and makes them slippery, unable to attach to teeth. Parents and adults should strive for at least 5 exposures every day, with 1-2 grams of xylitol at each exposure.

Tips for your child’s first visit to the dentist

  • Have the visit planned (Try to find a dentist who will do a simple, quick exam, without other treatment. You are looking for an experienced eye, and someone who makes this a good experience for your toddler.)
  • A child with healthy teeth should be in and out in no time – and hopefully the dentist will offer praise and give a small gift or token as they exit.
  • If the visit is a disaster don’t blame your child: wait a few months or try another dentist.
  • Annual visits should be adequate in early years, unless you have concerns about a particular tooth.
  • Avoid cleanings, unless they are deemed necessary. There is no science to show a dental cleaning has any benefit for a child’s oral health – and it may upset the mouth flora or abrade enamel.
  • Avoid fluoride treatments unless they are deemed necessary. Evidence Based Research indicates no benefit except for high-risk patients. The chance of swallowing fluoride at a young age increases the risk of fluorosis and ingestion of excess fluoride my have other negative consequences
  • Avoid X rays unless they are necessary. It is unlikely a toddler will need an X ray if they have healthy teeth.


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For more information on oral health and xylitol, please visit all of Dr. Ellie’s web-sites:

Zellies.com – learn more & order your Zellies Xylitol & the Complete Mouth Care System
Dr. Ellie.com – a great resource for learning more about oral health & Dr. Ellie
Dr. E Oral Health Coaching – articles, resources and videos to help you learn more

Join the conversation online on the Zellies Facebook page!

Categories: Children's Teeth, Prevention, Xylitol

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  • Joanna says:

    I live in Rochester, NY and I am looking for a dentist for my 17 month old son and the adults in my family. Do you have any suggestions for a pediatric and regular dentist that understands your system?

    Right after my son was born, I came across your fantastic book. Since then, I have implemented your system into our daily lives. Part of our evening routine consists of my son’s “Polar Bear” right before he goes to bed. He loves them, and I love that they are good for him! He doesn’t drink juice, and is content with milk or his xylitol sweetened water.

    As a child, I struggled with bad check-ups followed by getting cavities filled. I was told that I had “weak teeth” and that I needed to brush better. I have had 3 crowns, and have always dreaded going to the dentist. You have provided my son with the opportunity to have healthy teeth for life!

    Thank you,

    • Hi Joanna,

      Thank you so much for your message. Since you are in Rochester, you may be interested in two events where I will be speaking about infant and young children’s oral health. These events are “The Mom Wise Series” about raising healthy kids. The event is one and a half hours and I will talk about the issues of selecting a dentist and how to use xylitol. It should be a great event:
      Tuesday September 24th from 7-8.30 at Perinton Recreation Center
      Saturday October 19th 10-11.30 at the Strong Museum of Play, Downtown Rochester.

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