In the first year of their life, a child experiences many fundamental milestones. A first tooth appears around six months—the surfacing of baby teeth is the initial step in your child’s future smile.
For this reason, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) recommends parents take the next step in ensuring their child has a healthy smile, by scheduling their first dental visit no later than their first birthday.
Why see a dentist so early? Tooth decay can occur as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts. National studies indicate that preschool-aged children are getting more cavities. More than one in four children in the United States has had at least one cavity by the age of four. Some as early as the age of two.
The health of baby teeth can affect the health of adult teeth. Problems with growth, development, learning and self-esteem can stem from the formation of cavities in baby teeth.
By scheduling your child’s first dental visit, you can prevent early childhood cavities. Dr. Bernie Dishler, a PDA member and former PDA president says, “If we can see patients early enough, assess them for susceptibility to decay and advise the parents on good oral hygiene habits, we have a chance for preventing serious decay which could require a general anesthetic to treat the child.”
During the first visit, parents will learn about their child’s risk for developing cavities and be educated on creating good lifetime oral health habits for their children.
The first visit will include:
- An exam to check the mouth
- A cleaning and fluoride application if possible
- Discussion of cavity causing habits such as diet, pacifier use or thumb sucking
- Ways to prevent damage causing trauma to the face and teeth, and how to contact the dental office for dental emergencies
- Teething and milestones of development
- Instruction on how to properly clean your child’s teeth
- Suggested schedule for follow-up visits
When selecting a dental office for your child’s first visit, call the office to see at what age they suggest that children be seen for their first visit. Look for one that follows the recommendation of when the first tooth appears or by the child’s first birthday. Some parents may prefer to see a pediatric dentist who specializes in the care of young children. For help in locating a dentist or pediatric dentist, visit PDA’s website at padental.org/findadentist to find one in your area.
At the end of your first visit, you should have all your questions answered and a clear understanding of what you and your dentist can do together to guarantee your child has a lifetime of good oral health.