Kotlow said most pediatricians recommend children first see the dentist when they are 3. He says the sooner the better.
"Starting at birth, clean your baby's gums with a clean damp washcloth. As soon as teeth erupt, begin using a very small soft bristled toothbrush. From a dental perspective, primary teeth act as a placeholder in the jaw for the development of permanent teeth, and it's important to properly care for them," said Kotlow.
According to the AAPD, your child should visit the dentist by his or her first birthday followed by regular checkups every six months. By age 5, children should be able to brush their teeth on their own, twice a day with supervision. The New York Pediatric Dentistry Web site says brushing at a 45-degree angle in a circular motion is the proper way to teach children to brush.
When problems do arise, pediatric dentists often try to save and restore children's teeth, sometimes using a technique called pulpotomy. This procedure removes the diseased pulp tissue within the crown portion while preventing any new bacterial growth.
"Any time we can save a tooth we do, if the technique is out there, we know it and we have experience with it," said Kotlow.
Sedation therapy is used with children who may need extensive work done such as fillings, crowns or pulpotomys. A mild sedative is administered to the child as a way to calm and relax him or her. Many dentists feel one stressful visit to the dentist can make a child hate the dentist for life.
"We want children to feel comfortable and not be afraid," said Byrne.
Pediatric dentists encourage parents to stay away from terms such as "needle," "drill" and "hurt" -- anything that may be intimidating. It is also recommended that parents talk to their children about a scheduled visit beforehand so they know what to expect.