What is the Right Age to Take My Child to the Pediatric Dentist for the First Time?

Becoming a parent for the first time is a huge learning curve. From when to feed baby to scheduling checkups with your pediatrician, there’s a lot to keep up with. One thing that shouldn’t get overlooked is your child’s smile!

A Window into the Future

Your little one’s oral health can significantly affect his or her future smile, speech patterns, and self-confidence. Everything from thumb-sucking to brushing habits correlates with dental wellness as your child grows into adulthood.

It’s no surprise that both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Board of Pediatrics recommend that all children see a dentist by his or her first birthday, or within six months of their first tooth erupting (whichever comes first).While the age when teeth start erupting in children can vary from one to the next, most infants have their first tooth around 6-9 months old.

What Happens at the First Appointment?

Most pediatric dentists will spend a child’s first appointment getting to know the family and educating the parent/caregiver. Topics that might be discussed include:

  • Dietary habits
  • Preventive oral health strategies
  • Risk factors associated with oral disease
  • Anatomical structures as they affect feeding, speech, or bite patterns
  • Anxiety and comfort within the office environment

Working with parents, a good pediatric dentist can help you take steps to ensure your child’s smile develops properly. Not only can this save you money on trips to the dentist or orthodontist in the future, it’s better for your child’s overall health and self-confidence.

When it Comes to Teeth, Earlier Care is Better

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases to impact children. It is also preventable. Unfortunately, kids who don’t see a pediatric dentist early on may inadvertently develop cavities without the parents ever realizing there is a problem (that is, until it is too late).

Through early, preventative dental care, parents can help their child reduce the risk of cavities and enjoy stronger, disease-resistant teeth. While it may only be baby teeth that become infected, cavities can damage underlying developing permanent (adult) teeth, causing problems that extend well into adulthood.

Avoiding Fear of the Dentist

A pediatric dentist also understands how dental care can psychologically impact a child.

If your little one never sees a dentist until he or she is 3 or 4 years old, there’s a good chance they will be afraid of the unknown (especially if someone is poking around inside their mouth). But with routine preventive visits, your child can grow up realizing that the dental team is on their side, and a dentist visit becomes something they can look forward to.

Most dental emergencies occur due to untreated cavities. If your child’s first visit to the dentist is due to a toothache, it can be especially challenging for a pediatric dentist to instill a good first impression. Your child will carry this first meeting with them for years to come!

Keep things simple and preventive. Bring your baby to the dentist by his or her first birthday. If that milestone has already lapsed, it’s not too late to get started on the journey toward a healthy smile now.

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