Babies Should See Dentist by Age One
Seeing the dentist in the first year is critical to preventing dental disease.
Did you know the recommended age for your child's first visit to the dentist is by age one? Or within six months of the time the first tooth comes into the mouth? Well it's true. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) recommends that you don't miss this important first year visit to the dentist. The American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists and other key dental organizations couldn't agree more. Seeing the dentist in the first year is critical to preventing dental disease.
"Waiting until age three for the first visit to the dentist, which was the previous recommendation, is too late for some children because cavities can start much younger than that," said Dr. Steven Steed, UDOH dental director. "By bringing your children in early, dentists can educate you on how to prevent cavities before they start. Children who see the dentist early are more likely to have a healthy mouth as they grow up."
Your dentist can help you take the necessary steps for prevention of cavities and developing healthy oral habits for your child. Here are a few things you can discuss in more detail with our dentist.
Cleaning the Teeth
The dentist can show you how to daily clean the teeth. There are some tricks to help you, such as laying the child back and cradling the head in your lap. You can start cleaning the teeth with a clean washcloth even before you start using a small baby-sized toothbrush. The dentist may also discuss when to start using toothpaste and why to use just a pea-size amount.
Going to bed with a bottle or using the bottle as a pacifier during the day can lead to a serious, painful dental condition called Early Childhood Caries (ECC). ECC was formerly called "baby bottle tooth decay" or "nursing bottle mouth." This condition can happen if the bottle contains formula, milk, breast milk, fruit juice, jello water or anything else besides plain water. You can prevent ECC by letting your baby drink from the bottle or "sippy cup" only at meals or snack times. Also, don't let your baby fall asleep with the bottle. The dentist can help you with some weaning advice if you would like help with stopping the nighttime bottle.
Usually, the first teeth come in around six months of age. But every child is different. Some babies are even born with their first tooth while others don't get the first tooth until after a year old. The two bottom front teeth are typically the first to come, followed by the top front teeth. But this schedule can vary, too. The dentist will check the teeth to ensure they are coming in okay and give you some tips on how to help your baby through this experience. The dentist may discuss teething gels, cold teething rings, etc., and what can help when you're away from home.
The dentist will check the teeth to see if there are any cavities starting. If there are small areas of beginning decay, the dentist may put a fluoride varnish on the teeth. Fluoride varnish can "heal" the beginning stages of a cavity if it's caught soon enough.
If your baby does already have a cavity, the dentist may want to treat it in the office or he may need to go to the hospital or surgical center. The dentist may also refer you to a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating children with dental treatment needs.
You can help your baby's oral health, which improves your baby's overall health, by seeing your dentist for that first important visit by one year of age or within six months of the first tooth erupting. For more information, contact the UDOH Oral Health Program at (801) 538-9711 or visit http://health.utah.gov/oralhealth.
Questions to Ask Your Baby's Dentist
You can prepare for your child's first visit by lifting your baby's lip and checking their teeth. During the visit, be sure to ask questions such as:
- What is the proper way to brush my baby's teeth?
- Which toothpaste should I use?
- What are these spots on the teeth?
- Are the teeth erupting in the right order?
- Is it better to suck on the thumb and fingers or a pacifier?
- When does my child need to stop sucking and how can I help them stop?
- Does drinking from a bottle at this age hurt my baby's teeth?
- What about a "sippy" cup?
Utah Department of Health, Office of Public Information and Marketing
Utah Health Magazine, May 2006