Parents may be surprised to learn that young children should be seen by a dental professional well before they turn two years old. You may also be surprised to learn that tooth decay is now the most common childhood disease.
Seeing a dentist early is an important part of your child’s oral health, but how do you know when it is time to make your child’s very first dental appointment?
Look for Those Baby Teeth
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child be seen by a dentist by age 1 or within 6 months of when their first baby tooth cuts through the gums, which normally occurs at about 6 months of age. At this point, parents should begin brushing their little one’s teeth gently every day. Use a rice size amount of toothpaste and once your infant is able to spit, you can begin to use a pea sized amount.
Healthy dental habits should begin early because decay can start to develop as soon as baby teeth emerge. Early damage such as this is sometimes known as “baby bottle tooth decay”.
Child tooth decay occurs similarly to adult tooth decay, primarily as a result of unaddressed bacteria in the mouth. It is important for both parents and their children understand that certain bad habits, foods, and sugary drinks lead to decay.
The Purpose of Baby Teeth
Baby teeth provide several important functions. They help a child learn to chew, bite, and speak clearly. Keeping them clean and healthy is your job at first, but it is also up to you to begin teaching your kids how to care for their own teeth as they grow.
Slowly but surely they can begin to brush their teeth by themselves with your oversight. You can finish up with any areas they missed if needed.
The Experience of a Dental Visit and Ongoing Healthy Habits
Your child’s very first dental appointment should never be a scary experience (for them or for you). They are usually less fearful at a younger age, which means it is the perfect time for them to get accustomed to the office and staff. This also gives parents an opportunity to learn from Dr. Marilyn Sandor and Naples Pediatric Dentistry staff on how to care for their child’s teeth during the first few years of their life.
It can be very beneficial to bring your little one along on one of your own dental appointments, or the appointment of an older sibling to help get them more used to the environment at a dentist’s office.
Parents find out quickly that children learn and imitate what they see, both positive and negative. If your toddlers see you keeping to a similar schedule of brushing and flossing your teeth, they will want to mimic your behaviors.
Removing plaque, avoiding sugary foods and drinks, and developing good oral hygiene habits will help to prevent cavities, decay, and other oral health problems. This holds true for infants, toddlers, teens and adults.