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Today's Family Magazine

Caring for your baby's teeth

By Mary Flenner

Baby teeth.  They start causing little ones grief long before they reveal themselves, and then suddenly, they’re here!  Those little teeth often appear earlier than parents anticipated, and Mom and Dad may be unsure of how to take care of them, but proper dental care is essential, even at a young age.

Dr. Trista Onesti specializes in pediatric dentistry and recommends that babies make their first visit to the dentist by age one, or six months after their first tooth comes in.  "All teeth can get a cavity, so it is important to start preventing cavities early on—and routine dental care allows for that,” Dr. Trista says.

What to expect at their first visit
“All preventative visits are comprised of an exam, cleaning, and fluoride application.

Based on needs, children may receive x-rays,” says Dr. Trista.

“We know both the parents and the children may feel apprehensive, but proper preparation at home—role playing, reading books about going to the dentist—will help prepare everyone and make the visit go as smooth as possible,” she recommends.

What sets Dr. Trista’s Pediatric Dentistry in Lyndhurst apart from other practices is the level of staff expertise.  Each team member has years of experience working with children.  Her team is expertly trained in pediatric teeth and know the specific challenges and most important things to look for.

Kids love the comforting and fun environment of the beach-themed office at Dr. Trista’s Children’s Dentistry.  They are greeted with bright, cheery walls and usually a kid-friendly movie on in the waiting room, which immediately puts them at ease.

"We do a lot to make the kids feel comfortable.  We'll tell stories, sing songs, whatever we can do to relate to them.  We're also trained in behavioral management techniques,” she continues.

Dr. Trista says her favorite part of her job is the children’s smiles.  “I love working to create great smiles through prevention and through the care I provide.  I love watching the children attached to these smiles grow and their personalities develop. Watching the children leave my office with the prize toy they have earned, smiling from ear to ear because we worked together to have a fun and successful visit, brings me joy,” she says.

The Importance of Fluoride
The AAPD encourages dentist and other health care providers, and parents to optimize fluoride exposures to reduce the risk of tooth decay and cavities and to enhance the remineralization of teeth. Long-term use of fluorides has reduced the cost of oral health care for children by as much as 50 percent. When public water is fluoridated to an optimal level, there is a 35 percent reduction in decayed, missing, and filled primary teeth and 26 percent fewer decayed, missing, and filled permanent teeth. A good way to ensure your child’s teeth are getting enough fluoride is to drink tap water and get recommended fluoride treatments at the dentist.

“Prevention is the key.” Dr. Trista emphasizes. According to the AAPD, tooth decay is the number one chronic infectious disease affecting children in the United States, impacting 42% of children aged 2 – 11.

Dr. Trista’s Pediatric Dentistry is located at 5255 Mayfield Rd. in Lyndhurst.  To schedule a visit call (440) 459-2100 or learn more online at

Recommended care for baby teeth
0–12 Months
  • Begin by wiping milky residue off of baby’s tongue with a warm washcloth before bed or during bath time to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Start brushing teeth as soon as they come in.
  • Regular preventative checkups are recommended every 6 months.
Age 1+
  • Flossing can begin as soon as two teeth are next to each other. Dr. Trista says, “Parents should assist with flossing until the child has developed the manual dexterity to do the proper technique alone, usually around 7–8 years of age.”
  • Avoid foods and drinks from the major offenders list below.
  • Parents should assist and supervise tooth brushing until the child is about 7–8 years old.
  • Thumb-sucking is recommended to be weaned by age 5, or when teeth become wiggly.
  • Children should continue regular checkups and cleanings every six months.

Top 5 Food & Drink Offenders
Dentists recommend eliminating the following from your child’s diet:
1. Squeezable fruit pouches
2. Fruit snacks
3. Chocolate milk
4. Juice
5. Carbonated beverages

Starchy foods such as bread, pasta, potato chips, crackers and pretzels should be brushed off soon after eating, these foods quickly turn to sugar and can cause cavities when left to sit on the teeth for too long. Always be sure to brush teeth after eating sugary foods and dessert as well!