Did you know: The first visit is free for kids under 3
Your child’s first dentist appointment is an important first step for developing strong dental health and habits. The first visit is also equally important for parents since babies and small children require help with brushing, dental safety and dietary habits. In this post, we will take a brief look at when to bring your child for their first dental checkup, the potential dental problems that can develop in babies and young children, and also what kind of dentist is best suited for babies and children.
At what age should I bring my child for their first dentist appointment?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should visit the dentist once they get their first tooth, or by their first birthday at the latest. Since babies usually get their first tooth by around 6 months, it is important to see a pediatric dentist within the first year of their lives in order to discuss oral hygiene practices, examine the mouth (gums, teeth, and their alignment) and to discuss overall oral health. The best approach to keep in mind when discussing dental care for children is a preventative approach. In other words, it is better to visit the dentist before any problems develop, not after. This is especially true because cavities can start as early as age 1.
Do childhood dental issues matter if the teeth are just going to fall out?
It is important to visit a pediatric dentist early on to dispel the myth that dental hygiene for baby teeth is not that important because these teeth are not ‘permanent’. Just because these teeth will eventually fall out, does not mean that they don’t require proper care. In fact, there are a variety of issues that can develop early on with baby teeth that can impact oral health for years if proper dental hygiene is not practiced from the time that a baby’s first tooth arrives.
The term baby teeth can also be misleading since some of these teeth do not fall out until children reach the ages of 11 to 13. Not only do these teeth create the space necessary for the eventual adult teeth to arrive, they affect your child’s chewing, ability to speak and the appearance of their smile. As such, early dental problems can possibly lead to your child developing poor speech or poor eating habits.
What is baby bottle tooth decay?
Another critical issue to look for when visiting a pediatric dentist within your child’s first year is baby bottle tooth decay. This can be caused by babies going to bed after having had a bottle of milk, juice or formula. The sugars in these liquids end up sitting on your child’s teeth during the night and bacteria in the mouth that consume this sugar produce acids that hurt the teeth and cause decay. Left untreated, pain and infection can occur and ultimately decay sets in that requires the tooth to be removed.
To avoid baby bottle tooth decay, never add sugar or honey to your baby’s soother as this feeds the bacteria that cause decay. You can also wipe your babies gums clean after they are fed and brush their new teeth either with fluoride toothpaste or with a brush with no toothpaste at all. Also, try to avoid giving your child juice before bedtime.
Pediatric dentists can also apply painless dental sealants on your child’s new permanent teeth to offer long term protection and prevent against decay and issues that may arise as your child’s dietary habits change with age.
Is a family dentist the same as a pediatric dentist?
When choosing the right dentist for your child’s first visit, remember that pediatric dentists are trained with an additional two to three years of specialization in the dental health of children. With crucial childhood dental issues to manage such as baby bottle tooth decay, baby tongue ties, childhood dental sealants and early dietary habits, a pediatric dentist provides specialized oral health care for newborns all the way through to adolescence.
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