This is one of the most common questions I get from first time parents.
Let me begin by saying you are a great parent for thinking of your child’s dental health and starting them on the path to a healthy mouth/body.
When I was young (oh gosh the 80’s) parents were not as concerned about teeth and preventive maintenance. It was common to only get the occasional checkup if any at all, unless you had a toothache or an accident involving your mouth. However, my mom was the anomaly and she made my sister and I go faithfully every 6 months for dental cleanings. (THANKS MOM!)
Fast forward to 2019 and parents are more aware/involved in their child’s dental health than ever before. In some extreme examples, I had a few parents ask to whiten primary teeth…aka “baby teeth.” (WHICH IS NOT NECESSARY AND FRANKLY IS SUPERFICIAL FOR MY TASTE.)
The recommended age to take your little one to see the Pediatric Dentist is at the age of one.
FIRST VISIT BY FIRST BIRTHDAY!!!!
The reason I emphasize a Pediatric Dentist is because they are dentists with 2 additional years of residency specializing in children from birth through adolescence. I will be honest, not many general dentists like working on little ones at such a young age. A pediatric dental office has all of the newest techniques and equipment to work with children and their dental development.
Now you’re probably wondering why so young for their first visit? Well it isn’t really to get a dental cleaning. The purpose is for the dentist to make sure there is no decay (like baby bottle caries) and evaluate the gums/teeth to see that everything is developing properly. Dentists will usually discuss things like pacifier use, proper nutrition for healthy teeth, and demonstrate proper tooth and gum care for your baby. Parents should also take this opportunity to ask any questions that they may have, like the one I just got today from a patient …. When do I start brushing my baby’s teeth? Do I use fluoride toothpaste? How much? What type of toothbrush? Not to mention lots of thumb sucking/pacifier questions. (Don’t worry I plan to talk about many of these subjects in future posts)
The visit itself will be quick and usually you are in and out within 25-35 minutes. After this appointment, given everything looks good, your dentist will recommend follow up appointments for your child. Typically, this is a cleaning and check up every 6 months. However, there isn’t much of a reason to return to the dental office (unless otherwise discussed or something comes up) until the child is ready and mature enough for their first cleaning. (usually around the age of 2-3)
One point I want to emphasize, if you see anything unusual in the mouth while YOU are brushing or wiping your little one’s teeth/gums (like dark spots, growths, ulcers, bleeding gums. etc.) make sure to schedule an appointment to get it checked out!
The earlier your child starts seeing a dentist, the more likely they are to avoid dental problems. Prevention is the key!!!