Here are some of the things you’ll always remember about your baby’s first year: those first tiny steps… the first few words… and the first dental visit. But wait a minute—does a one-year-old baby really need to see the dentist? According to both the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the answer is a resounding YES. In fact, some consider it the most important visit of all—and there are plenty of good reasons why.
For one thing, that initial visit sets the stage for a lifetime of good oral health. It’s an easy way for your child to get accustomed to the sights, sounds and sensations of the dental office—a place he or she should visit regularly from now on. During the first visit, your dentist will probably spend lots of time simply talking to your little one in a calm and reassuring way, showing off the shiny mirrors and lights, and letting them relax in the chair. This simple introduction can do much to calm any fears a child may have about going to the dentist—fears that may, in fact, have been unconsciously transmitted to them by adults.
But besides just making young children comfortable, there’s also some important work to be done at this time. For one thing, the teeth will be examined for signs of early dental disease, including a potentially serious condition called Early Childhood Caries (ECC). Formerly called “baby bottle tooth decay”, this condition can develop rapidly in kids between 12 and 18 months old, and may cause multiple cavities to develop. This comprehensive examination also includes an assessment of your child’s oral development, his or her risk for cavities in general, and other potential issues.
If problems are discovered now, your dentist has an early opportunity to treat them in as gentle a way as possible. For example, in many cases dentists can prevent cavities from occurring—and even reverse the decay process—without drilling. Sometimes, fluoride applications, dental sealants, or other treatments may be recommended if your child is at high risk of cavities; in other cases, your dentist may recommend just keeping a close eye on the situation. Yet there’s even more to be done at the first appointment.
Prevention of cavities is a major goal throughout childhood. At this visit, your dentist will go over the best ways for you to help do that at home. You’ll be shown how to clean your child’s teeth and gums, and how often to do it. You will also probably be given some guidance about nutrition and diet: For example, did you know that even natural fruit juices have sugars that can harm the teeth if they’re allowed too frequently? This visit is also a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have about oral health—both your baby’s and your own.
The idea that early dental visits are vitally important isn’t just speculation—it’s backed up by plenty of evidence. In fact, a recent research paper in the journal Pediatrics found that kids who have their first dental visit by age one have 40 percent lower dental costs in the first five years than kids who don’t—largely due to the cost of restorative procedures related to poor oral health. Another scientific paper reports that kids with dental issues are more likely to miss school, have lower academic performance, and suffer social problems than kids with good oral health.
So when should you bring your child in for that first dental appointment? According to the ADA and the AAPD, it should be when your baby’s first teeth are starting to erupt (often between 6 and 9 months), but no later than age one. Visiting your dentist at an early age will give your child the chance to start out right—and it can be just the beginning of a whole lifetime of healthy smiles. To learn more call one of our :DP AtYourService Customer Care Representatives at 1-800-238-5163.