When Should Kids Start Going to the Dentist?
There are so many things to think about when raising an infant, but one thing that tends to get pushed to the backburner is infant oral care. There are several things that new parents can do to make sure that their baby’s mouth, gums, and teeth are getting proper care, but perhaps the most important one is making sure your baby goes to the dentist on time. But when should your baby have their first dental appointment?
The Right Age for the Dentist
While many parents report that their child’s first dentist visit occurred only after they were 2 years of age or older, this is actually much later than the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends. According to the ADA, your baby should have their first visit to the dentist within 6 months of the eruption of their first baby tooth or by the time they turn one, whichever comes first.
Your child’s initial dental appointments will primarily be informative. The pediatric dentist can answer any questions that you may have about caring for your baby’s mouth, teeth, and gums. These early dental appointments also allow your baby’s dentist to identify and treat any issues with your baby’s teeth early. The sooner any issues are taken care of, the less likely they are to have any lasting damage to your baby’s oral health.
The Importance of Baby Teeth
Many people believe that caring for baby teeth isn’t as important as caring for permanent, adult teeth since baby teeth will eventually fall out. However, this is not the case. Baby teeth serve several important purposes and need proper care, just like adult teeth. Some of the functions of baby teeth include:
- Helping your child chew food properly.
- Assisting in speech development.
- Holding space in the jaws for the permanent teeth that will take their place.
If baby teeth fall out too early, it can cause difficulties for the adult teeth. Permanent teeth may drift into the incorrect place, making it difficult for the surrounding teeth to come in properly. Caring for your child’s baby teeth helps ensure that their adult teeth will erupt into their proper places.
As soon as your child’s teeth come in, be sure to make regular dentist appointments. Regular dental checkups will ensure that any issues with your child’s baby teeth are treated promptly.
Caring for Your Baby’s Teeth and Gums
When your baby is too young to care for their teeth themselves, it’s up to the parents to make sure that their teeth and gums are clean and healthy. Even before your baby’s first tooth comes in, you can clean their mouth after eating. Use a warm, wet washcloth or a damp piece of gauze wrapped around your finger to wipe down their gums and remove any residual food.
You can start taking care of your baby’s teeth as soon as they start coming in, which usually occurs at around 6 months of age. Use a warm, wet washcloth or a soft-bristled toothbrush and water to clean your baby’s teeth, and be sure to clean their gums as well. This helps prevent plaque from building up and causing tooth decay.
When your child is 18 months old, you can start using a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste when brushing your baby’s teeth. Your child can spit out the toothpaste, but shouldn’t rinse.
Your child’s pediatric dentist can answer any questions that you may have about how to care for your child’s teeth and gums.
Establish Good Oral Health Habits
Did you know that tooth decay is the most common chronic children’s disease in the United States? More than 40% of children develop tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. However, tooth decay in children is entirely preventable. As a parent, teaching your child proper oral care habits can help set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Here are some of the best things that parents can do to help establish good oral habits for kids:
Schedule regular dental cleanings.
Feed your child a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables.
Don’t let your baby sleep with bottles.
Brush your child’s teeth until they’re old enough to do it on their own.
Let your child try brushing their own teeth around age 6.
Make sure your child brushes and flosses twice a day.
Once your baby’s teeth start coming in, it’s time to get them to the dentist. If your infant’s teeth have already come in, but they haven’t been to the dentist yet, don’t fret. Just make their first appointment as soon as possible!
The earlier you start taking your child to the dentist, the better. If parents work with their pediatric dentist, you can make sure that your baby grows up with healthy teeth that will pave the way for a lifetime of gorgeous smiles. Make your child’s next dental appointment today!
Kylie Hemswort is a freelance writer who has been blogging about family health for nearly 10 years for businesses and practices like Children’s Dentistry of Las Vegas. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking in the hills around her Southern California home.