Most American children don’t see their family dentist until they are well over 2 years old, which is far later than dental and medical professionals recommend. The ideal time for a child’s first dentist appointment is by age 1, or within six months after the first primary teeth erupt.
Benefits of an Early Dental Visit
A visit by age 1 may seem young, but it lets you and your child develop a relationship with a dentist, which can help set a foundation for good oral health. If you begin taking your children to the dentist around the time the first tooth erupts, then they are probably too young to be nervous. But if you’ve waited until your child is older, then he or she may have some anxiety at the time of the first visit.
This time frame is also a perfect opportunity for the dentist to carefully examine the development of your child’s mouth. Dental problems often start early, so the sooner the visit the better.
Tooth decay in infants and young children most often begins in the upper front teeth, but also may affect other teeth. Parents may not realize that a baby’s teeth can decay soon after they first appear – a problem frequently referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay,” which is caused by long-term exposure of a child’s teeth to liquids containing sugars and acids. The decay may even enter the underlying bone structure, which can hurt development of the permanent teeth.
To safeguard against problems such as baby bottle tooth decay, teething irritations, gum disease and prolonged thumb-sucking, your dentist can provide or recommend special preventive care.
The First Dental Visit
The first dental visit is simple and really acts as a well-baby checkup for your child’s teeth and mouth. It typically includes an examination for normal growth and development, checking for cavities and educating parents on good oral health care. This may include information about brushing and flossing, diet and nutrition, the use of fluoride and prevention of cavity-causing bacteria passing from parent to child.
Check Your Coverage and Enroll Your Child
Sign your child up for dental coverage at birth to ensure dental benefits are available in time for early screenings. With good nutrition, proper dental care at home and regularly scheduled oral health screenings, you can ensure your child has a healthy and happy smile that will last a lifetime!