When Should Children Have Their First Dental Visit?
Tooth decay and early cavities are rising epidemics for infants and toddlers. They can be especially painful if not dealt with immediately and can set the child up for a lifetime of oral health complications.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends parents take their children to their first “well-baby” checkup with a pediatric dentist approximately six months after their first tooth emerges or before their first birthday. Pediatric dentists are not only highly trained in dental practices but are also trained in child behavior and child psychology. They are an important source of care for the child and a font of information and guidance for the parents.
Pediatric dentists can provide parents with strategies for eliminating harmful oral habits like thumb-sucking and pacifier use and can help the parents establish proper oral care routines for the child at home. Pediatric dentists often demonstrate to the parents how infant teeth should be brushed and flossed.
Common childhood dental problems
Parents often believe that maintaining the health of their child’s primary teeth is not so important since they eventually fall out. However, primary teeth are essential for the development of a healthy jaw, proper speech pronunciation, and appropriate spacing for the emergence of adult teeth.
The main cause of childhood tooth decay is the use of sippy cups. Infants who drink sweetened liquids such as breast milk, baby formula, sweetened water, juice, or soda from baby bottles and sippy cups are at high risk for developing childhood caries (cavities). Pediatric dentists encourage parents to use sippy cups for water only, and adult drinking glasses for any sweet liquids.
Pediatric dentists also urge parents to avoid dipping pacifiers in sweet fluids like honey and to limit oral bacteria transmission by using separate eating utensils with the child and frequently cleaning the child’s pacifiers with water rather than their own mouths.
Excessive fluoride intake is also common in children and can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which results in white spots on the child’s teeth. Conversely, too little fluoride is also common in children and causes childhood tooth decay. The pediatric dentist can assess a child’s fluoride intake and recommend how it can be improved.
What to expect during your child’s first visit to the dentist
At your child’s first dental visit, the pediatric dentist will examine the child’s emerging teeth, ask the parents questions about the child’s oral habits, and guide the parents in implementing a proper oral care routine.
Throughout the examination, the parent and dentist sit knee-to-knee. The child’s head is in the dentist’s lap so they can see their parent the whole time.
If the child’s teeth look stained, the dentist will perform a professional cleaning. A topical fluoride treatment may be applied after the cleaning as a form of decay prevention.
What questions to expect at your child’s first visit
A child’s first visit to the dentist is just as much about the condition of their teeth as it is about the oral care routine implemented by their parents. The pediatric dentist will take time during the visit to talk to the parents about the child’s current oral care regimen, their overall health, their oral habits, and their fluoride intake.
Answers to these questions are necessary for the dentist to advise the parents on the following issues:
- Choosing an ADA-approved, non-fluoridated toothpaste for the infant.
- Choosing an appropriate toothbrush.
- Choosing an orthodontically correct pacifier.
- Accident prevention.
- Adding xylitol and fluoride to the infant’s diet.
- Easing the transition from sippy cups to adult-sized drinking glasses (12-14 months).
- Establishing a drink-free bedtime routine.
- Correct positioning of the head during tooth brushing and flossing.
- Eliminating fussing during the oral care routine.
- Maintaining good dietary habits.
- Minimizing the risk of tooth decay.
- Teething and developmental milestones.
- Reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake.
To express any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s first dental checkup, please contact Brooklyn Dentist.