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, incidences of infant and toddler tooth decay have 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.
A 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, your pediatric dentist can provide strategies for eliminating unwanted oral habits (such as pacifier use and thumb sucking) and can also help parents establish a sound daily oral routine for their child.
What potential dental problems can babies experience?
A baby is at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first tooth emerges. During a child's first visit, the pediatric dentist will help parents implement a preventative strategy to protect the teeth from harm. They will 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, pediatric dentists discourage parents from filling cups with sugary fluids, dipping pacifiers in honey, and transmitting oral bacteria to the child via shared spoons and/or pacifiers cleaned using their own mouths.
Your pediatric dentist can also assess and balance an 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.
What questions may the pediatric dentist ask during the first visit?
The pediatric dentist will ask questions about current oral care, diet, the general health of the child, the child’s oral habits, and the child’s current fluoride intake.
Once answers to these questions have been established, the pediatric dentist can advise parents on the following issues:
Adding xylitol and fluoride to the infant’s diet
Choosing an ADA approved, non-fluoridated brand of toothpaste for the infant
Choosing an appropriate toothbrush
Choosing an orthodontically correct pacifier
Correct positioning of the head during tooth brushing
Easing the transition from sippy cup to adult-sized drinking glasses (12-14 months)
Eliminating fussing during the oral care routine
Establishing a drink-free bedtime routine
Maintaining good dietary habits
Minimizing the risk of tooth decay
Reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake
Teething and developmental milestones
If you have further questions or concerns about the timing or nature of your child’s first oral checkup, please call our office.