Right around the time your baby sprouts their first tooth, you might start wondering when you should take them to the dentist. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children should be seen by a dentist by the age of 12 months. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), babies should visit a dentist within six months of the first tooth appearing—even if there are only a few teeth to look at. Both medical and dental specialists recommend early screening, and intervention is important to prevent cavities.
Since baby teeth are brand new and temporary anyway, many parents may wonder if anything can possibly go wrong with them. According to the ADA, early dental visits are important because:
If a toddler’s primary teeth are allowed to decay, that could lead to decay in permanent (secondary) teeth.
If necessary, the dentist can prescribe fluoride treatment or apply dental sealant to guard against future decay and protect your child from cavities throughout the formative years.
If a cavity develops, your child can experience tooth pain just like an adult. Filling a tooth may do wonders for your toddler’s disposition.
A dentist can show you how to clean your toddler’s teeth and teach good oral health habits, such as not allowing an infant to fall asleep with a juice or milk bottle in their mouth. Even if your baby finds this soothing, the constant contact with the sugary solution raises the risk she’ll develop cavities.
It’s good to establish a “home base” for pediatric dental care, so you have a dentist who is intimately familiar with your child’s oral health (and whom your toddler knows and trusts).
If a pediatric dentist is available in your area, you might consider visiting one. Just like the name implies, this kind of dentist specializes in children and has received additional training in the issues facing children’s dental care (including how to deal with children who are afraid of the dentist!). Remember, you are the best role model for your child’s attitude toward the dentist. If you treat a trip to the dentist as a positive step toward healthy teeth, your child will be less likely to worry and fear dental visits.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, April 2019
- Schedule your baby’s first visit to the dentist within six months of the first tooth emerging or by 12 months of age.
- A dentist can teach you good oral habits and spot problems in your baby’s teeth before they become serious.
- Pediatric dentists specialize in children and have received extra training on how to deal with tooth care in children.
- Your baby will look to you for reassurance about the dentist. Set a healthy example!