When Should Children Have Their First Dental Visit?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggests that parents should make an initial “well-baby” appointment with a pediatric dentist approximately six months after the emergence of the first tooth, or no later than the child’s first birthday.

Although this may seem surprisingly early, the incidence of infant and toddler tooth decay has been rising in recent years.  Tooth decay and early cavities can be exceptionally painful if they are not attended to immediately, and can also set the scene for poor oral health in later childhood.

The pediatric dentist is a specialist in child psychology and child behavior, and should be viewed as an important source of information, help, and guidance.  Oftentimes, the pediatric dentist can provide strategies for eliminating unwanted oral habits (for example, pacifier use and thumb sucking) and can also help parents in establishing a sound daily oral routine for the child.

What potential dental problems can babies experience?

A baby is at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first tooth emerges.  During the first visit, the pediatric dentist will help parents implement a preventative strategy to protect the teeth from harm, and also demonstrate how infant teeth should be brushed and flossed.

In particular, infants who drink breast milk, juice, baby formula, soda, or sweetened water from a baby bottle or sippy cup are at high-risk for early childhood caries (cavities).  To counteract this threat, the pediatric dentist discourages parents from filling cups with sugary fluids, dipping pacifiers in honey, and transmitting oral bacteria to the child via shared spoons and/or cleaning pacifiers in their own mouths.

Importantly, the pediatric dentist can also assess and balance the infant’s fluoride intake.  Too much fluoride ingestion between the ages of one and four years old may lead to a condition known as fluorosis in later childhood.  Conversely, too little fluoride may render young tooth enamel susceptible to tooth decay.

What happens during the first visit?

Pediatric dentists have fun-filled, stimulating dental offices.  All dental personnel are fully trained to communicate with infants and young children.

During the initial visit, the pediatric dentist will advise parents to implement a good oral care routine, ask questions about the child’s oral habits, and examine the child’s emerging teeth.  The pediatric dentist and parent sit knee-to-knee for this examination to enable the child to view the parent at all times.  If the infant’s teeth appear stained, the dentist may clean them.  Oftentimes, a topical fluoride treatment will be applied to the teeth after this cleaning.

Preparing for the First Visit

How should you prepare your child for the visit? It’s a good idea to talk to your child about what to expect when going to the dentist. Talk about it in an exciting way, so your child will look forward to going to the dentist. You can even explain the answer to the question, “When should children have their first dental visit?” so your child will understand why it’s time to go.

You can also read your child books about going to the dentist. This will build your child’s confidence, so he or she will be ready for the first appointment.

Your child will maintain that confidence by going to a pediatric dentist who works well with children. Your child will form a bond with the right dentist, and then, instead of asking, “When should children have their first dental visit?” you’ll be asking, “When can my child go again?”

Find Out More

Dr. Dayna Olstein and the team at Orange County Pediatric Dentistry are experts in pediatric dentistry. We are happy to answer any questions pertaining to pediatric dentistry in Florida, New York, 10921 and the surrounding areas. If you would like to schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Olstein, please contact Orange County Pediatric Dentistry at (845) 928-2205 or visit ocpdental.com.
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