How Old Should A Child Be To Begin Seeing A Pediatric Dentist?
One of a child’s major milestones is when he or she gets their first tooth. Parents often wonder when they should take their child to see a pediatric dentist for the first time. According to the Australian Dental Association, when you see the first tooth coming out, you should take your child for a checkup within six months. However, it should not be later than the child’s first birthday. When you see the first tooth coming out, there is no need to wait. The other time when you should take your child to see the dentist is if you see anything that does not look right in your child’s mouth. Things like lesions, blood, white spots, etc should be examined by a dental professional right away as a precautionary measure.
Some parents think the first year is too early for the child’s first dental visit. After all, baby teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth, so why be concerned about baby teeth? The fact is, if there is decay in baby teeth, it can lead to decay in the permanent teeth that are waiting to grow. Therefore, it is just as important to take good care of baby teeth.
Young children are particularly susceptible to tooth decay because the inside of their mouth is exposed to sugar for a longer period of time. When a child is given fruit juices and sweetened drinks in a sippy cup that they can sip all day long, the sugar stays on the teeth all day. This increases the risk of developing cavities. Therefore, it is not a good idea to offer sweetened drinks or juice in a sippy cup that the child carries around all day long. Water should be offered instead. In addition, after the child drinks something with sugar in it, it is a good idea to give them some water to drink afterward to rinse away some of the sugar.
What about milk? Milk has calcium, which strengthens bones and teeth. However, milk is not beneficial for the outside of the teeth if the milk residuals remain on the teeth. Some parents let their babies sleep with a bottle of milk in their mouth because it calms the child, but it is not recommended. The milk from the bottle can accumulate around the gum and teeth area. Milk contains lactose, which is a sugar. If milk residue lingers on the teeth for a long time, the milk sugar will contribute to tooth decay.
Because any teeth in the mouth can be subject to decay, the child should see a dentist after the first tooth comes out. It is a good time to establish a relationship between the dentist and the child because that relationship will last many years through the child’s growing years. The dentist will have an opportunity to get to know the child and learn what the specific needs are. It is a time when parents can ask the dentist about the appropriate oral care for the child as he grows up.
Taking the child to see the dentist within the first year of his life is also a good way to introduce the child to the dentist. Regular visits every six months will get the child more accustomed to going to exams. Through the toddler years, there are usually more problems with cavities because the child is eating various things. If the child is familiar with the dentist, there will be less anxiety about getting treatments for cavities.
Even a young child can be taught good dental hygiene habits. An experienced pediatric dentist knows the right techniques in engaging young children in learning what to do. The young child can be taught how to grasp a toothbrush and swirl it around the teeth and gums to clean them. Of course, this is not a thorough cleaning. It is merely familiarizing the child with the proper motion. The parent will need to step in and finish the job properly until the child is old enough to brush his teeth well by himself.
All of this starts by taking your child to the dentist at the appropriate time in his life. The child learns a tremendous amount of information during the first year of his life. Introducing him to good oral care, even at a very elementary level, will help him develop good habits as he grows up.
Call our friendly staff, and we’ll get your child scheduled for their first dentist visit. We see a lot of kiddos at our practice, so we have lots of experience (and patience) ensuring that they enjoy healthy teeth for the years ahead.