A question that I get the asked the most as a pediatric dentist is, “At what age should I start bringing my child to the dentist?” I believe that you should bring your child in around their first birthday. The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Dental Association, and The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry all agree that children should have their first dental visits and find a dental home around the time of their first birthday. A dental home is basically a place that is easily accessible for you, comprehensive, and coordinated. Establishing a dental home can be more cost effective and higher quality alternative to emergency care situations, because dental problems can usually be detected and prevented before it turns into something more serious.
Once I recommend to parents that they should bring in their one year olds for dental exams they usually say “but my child doesn’t even that many teeth yet”. Although this may be true the purpose of the first dental visit for your child goes a lot deeper than just looking at the teeth. The benefit of the first dental visit is being able to talk with the parents. My main focus of the first visit is to gather information that we can use to create a program that addresses the unique issues that can affect your child’s oral health. Using anticipatory guidance where I asses your child’s risk factors for oral disease, and anticipate what potential oral problems your child may encounter based on these risk factors and help guide you in a way to avoid these problems.
My assistants and I do a lot of talking with the parents at the time of the first visit but I also have to look at the child’s teeth. Many infant and toddler exams that we do take place in an infant area where I can help the child feel more at ease and offer a more comforting exam. For this exam the child can sit on your lap and you just lean their head back so that I can makes sure I can determine if there are any potential signs of dental disease and make some early predictions on the need of orthodontics later on. I can also demonstrate proper brushing techniques for your child so you can keep their teeth clean at home.
So once we exam the child’s teeth and talk with the parents our dental team can provide you with:
- A program that includes preventive home care such as flossing, brushing, and diet.
- An Risk Assessment for Cavities
- Information about thumb, finger, and pacifier habits.
- Preventing Injuries to the mouth and teeth.
- Growth and Development Information over teeth and jaws.