When Should Children Have Their First Dental Visit?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents schedule an initial "well-baby" appointment with a pediatric dentist around six months after the first tooth appears, or no later than the child's first birthday.

Although this may appear surprisingly early, the prevalence of tooth decay in infants and toddlers has been increasing in recent years. Addressing tooth decay and early cavities promptly is crucial as they can cause significant pain and contribute to poor oral health later in childhood.

Pediatric dentists are experts in child psychology and behavior, making them valuable sources of information, assistance, and guidance. They can offer strategies to eliminate unwanted oral habits such as pacifier use and thumb sucking. Additionally, they can assist parents in establishing a consistent daily oral care routine for the child.

What potential dental problems can babies experience?

The risk of tooth decay in a baby begins as soon as the first tooth emerges. During the initial visit, the pediatric dentist assists parents in implementing a preventive strategy to safeguard the teeth and demonstrates proper brushing and flossing techniques for infant teeth.

Particularly, infants who consume breast milk, juice, baby formula, soda, or sweetened water from a bottle or sippy cup are at a high risk of developing early childhood caries (cavities). To counter this risk, the pediatric dentist advises against filling cups with sugary fluids, dipping pacifiers in honey, and transmitting oral bacteria to the child through shared spoons or cleaning pacifiers with their own mouths.

Significantly, the pediatric dentist can evaluate and regulate the infant's fluoride intake. Excessive fluoride consumption between the ages of one and four can lead to a condition called fluorosis in later childhood. Conversely, insufficient fluoride may make 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.

What questions may the pediatric dentist ask during the first visit?

During the dental visit, the pediatric dentist will inquire about various aspects of oral care, diet, the child's overall health, oral habits, and fluoride intake.

Based on the information provided, the pediatric dentist may offer recommendations such as:

  1. Accident prevention.
  2. Incorporating xylitol and fluoride into the infant's diet.
  3. Choosing an ADA-approved toothpaste brand for the infant that is non-fluoridated.
  4. Selecting an appropriate toothbrush.
  5. Opting for an orthodontically correct pacifier.
  6. Ensuring correct positioning of the head during tooth brushing.
  7. Facilitating the transition from a sippy cup to adult-sized drinking glasses (around 12-14 months).
  8. Eliminating fussiness during the oral care routine.
  9. Establishing a drink-free bedtime routine.
  10. Maintaining a healthy diet.
  11. Minimizing the risk of tooth decay.
  12. Reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake.
  13. Addressing teething and developmental milestones.

By addressing these areas, the pediatric dentist aims to provide comprehensive guidance for optimal oral health and development.

 to these questions have been established, the pediatric dentist can advise parents on the following issues:

If you have further questions or concerns about the timing or nature of your child’s first oral checkup, please ask your pediatric dentist.

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