Why Pediatric Dental Appointments are Important to Start at Age-One?

Many parents don’t realize that dental visits should begin much earlier than they think. Did you know your child should have their first dental exam by age one or six months after the eruption of the first tooth?  Further, they may question why this visit is important at such an early point in the child’s life. Let’s discuss what you can expect at the age-one visit, and why it is important for good dental health. Parents should establish a dental home for their infants by 12 months of age. This is important not only from a cavity-prevention standpoint but also to have a familiar office to contact should an emergency arise (ex: trauma).

Why is there a need for the infant oral exam?
The CDC reports that dental caries (decay) is the most prevalent infectious disease in our nation’s children. More than 40% of children have caries by the time they reach kindergarten, and in many areas, the prevalence is increasing. We can battle this increase with knowledge, good oral hygiene habits, and routine preventive care.

Why are baby teeth so important?
The primary teeth are important because they help your child chew food, speak clearly, and save space for the permanent teeth that will come in later. Cavities in primary teeth can affect children’s growth, cause significant pain and potentially life-threatening infection, and diminish self-esteem.

What can I expect at my child’s age-one visit?
Your child’s age-one visit will be centered around parent education, assessment of homecare routines and habits, and an exam of your child’s mouth and teeth. Many parents worry that their child won’t cooperate for the exam. Don’t worry – our doctors and hygienists are well-experienced in treating children of all ages. With your help, we typically use a “knee-to-knee” position to get a quick and thorough look at all structures. Here is a more detailed look at what the initial visit will consist of:

  • Thorough medical and dental histories
  • Oral examination
  • Age-appropriate tooth brushing demonstration
  • Prophylaxis and fluoride varnish treatment, if indicated
  • Assessment of the infant’s caries risk, determination of a prevention plan
  • Anticipatory guidance regarding dental and oral development
  • Assessment of fluoride status, non-nutritive sucking habits (thumb, pacifier, etc.), teething, injury prevention, oral hygiene instruction, and the effects of diet on the dentition

What can I do at home?
Aside from bringing your child in for regular dental appointments, here are some important everyday practices to keep in mind:

  • As soon as the first tooth erupts, children should be brushing twice daily with the help of an adult. Daily flossing should begin when contact occurs between two adjacent teeth.
  • Until your child is old enough to spit, he/she should be using just a smear (grain of rice-sized) amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Once they learn to spit, they can use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste twice daily.
  • If your child exhibits discomfort while teething, oral analgesics (Tylenol) or chilled teething rings can be used. Topical anesthetics (Orajel) are discouraged due to the potential for toxicity in infants.
  • Diets high in sugar can contribute to tooth decay, and frequent consumption of sugary snacks or drinks can increase that chance. We recommend drinking juice and other sugar-containing beverages with meals and sticking to water between meals.
  • Nighttime bottle feeding with milk, juice, formula, etc. also increases the risk for cavities. After brushing, only water should be consumed.
  • Did you know that parents can transfer cavity-causing bacteria to their children? Try to avoid saliva-sharing behaviors (sharing spoons and cups, or cleaning dropped pacifiers with the mouth). And remember that keeping your teeth healthy with regular dental visits and fluoride use can mean that your child will grow up with healthy teeth!