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When Should Your Child First Visit the Dentist? It Might Be Earlier Than You Think

A lifetime of healthy teeth and gums takes a lifetime of good home and professional dental care. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics say that every child should visit a dentist by age 1 – or as soon as the first tooth appears. While there may not be many teeth visible, there is a lot that can be accomplished in this first “well baby” dental exam. 

Importance of primary teeth 

According to a recent survey, the average age at the initial dentist visit was 2.6 years - far later than is recommended by both dental and medical professionals.

Among children who have never visited the dentist, the most frequently mentioned reasons were that “the child is too young” or “doesn’t have enough teeth yet.”  According to Dr. Jeff Morrison, of Jeff M. Morrison & Associates DDS, in Raleigh, NC, “many parents don’t realize how important it is to keep primary (or ‘baby’) teeth healthy and in place until they are lost naturally.”

Baby teeth are very important to your child’s health and development. They help him or her chew, speak and smile, and they also hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums. When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when they come in, causing teeth to be crooked or crowded. That’s one reason why starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.  Here are a few more reasons to start dental visits early:  

A familiar, comfortable and safe place.  Children need to feel comfortable and safe at the dental office. Beginning visits early means your child will view these as a regular part of their life.  

Early monitoring for dental problems. A young child’s teeth are highly susceptible to tooth decay - in fact, 40% of children starting kindergarten have had at least one filling.  Early dental visits increase our chances of detecting and addressing any developing dental problems at the earliest possible stage, keeping the primary teeth healthy until it’s time for them to fall out.  We may also be able to catch early bite problems; with interventional treatment, it may be possible to reduce future orthodontic costs.

Parental help and support.  As we discuss your child’s dental care with you, we’ll be able to provide helpful information on caring for your child’s teeth and gums, as well as make recommendations for toothbrushes, toothpaste and rinses. We’ll also be able to ease any common concerns you may have, such as thumb sucking, as well as give you advice and techniques for dealing with these problems.

Helping children learn oral care.  The more children understand about their oral health, the more likely they will be to adopt good dental habits. Our Dental Hygienists are trained to teach even very young children about taking care of their teeth and gums.   

Social skills.  Youngsters with healthy teeth chew food more thoroughly, learn to speak clearly and smile with confidence-all important developmental skills for young children. 

Starting off on the right foot with early and routine oral care can make all the difference to your child’s future dental health, providing them with the best chance for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, please contact our Raleigh general and cosmetic dental practice at (919) 755-3450 to schedule an appointment. We would love to be your family dentist!