The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) now recommend that your child see a dentist upon eruption of their first tooth, or by age one. By seeing children at an early age, we are able to examine children to make sure that all dental structures are developing normally. More importantly it allows us to speak with parents about diet and hygiene and to discuss prevention. Children that begin early with their dental care tend to have lower rates of decay because the child is less averse to the dental setting, parents are better educated, and early intervention (when necessary) can be accomplished, so areas of concern do not become major problems later.
Just as each child is different, each “first dental visit” is different. Every child presents with different dental needs and different cognitive levels. Your first visit is an important time to examine your child’s teeth, discuss diet and habits, and establish a “dental home” for your family. For those children with dental disease, it is a time to discuss if and what are the best treatment options for your child so they can have visits that are positive and not help to perpetuate fear and anxiety.
Baby teeth (primary teeth) are important because they not only aid in function of the oral cavity through chewing and speech development, but they also help to hold space for the developing permanent teeth. Excellent dental care helps to aid the developing oral cavity prepare for the emergence of the permanent teeth.
When primary teeth become decayed, they can lead to dental pain and abscessed teeth. Studies have shown that children with severe decay miss more days of school and have a harder time concentrating in school. It is important for children to build strong preventive habits early on so that they may go on to have excellent dental hygiene as they mature.