The first visit
Getting an early start with regular dental care is an important step to helping your child learn healthy lifetime habits. The first visit should take place shortly after the first tooth appears and no later than your child's first birthday. At the first visit, generally you hold your child on your lap while the dentist:
- Performs a tooth decay risk assessment.
- Talks about a home preventive care program including brushing, flossing, diet and the importance of fluorides.
- Goes over information about early childhood cavities which could be caused by diet.
- Discusses the latest news about finger, thumb and pacifier habits.
- Talks about what you need to know to help prevent injuries to the mouth and teeth.
- Gives you information about growth and development.
Did you know that 80 percent of tooth decay occurs in only 20 percent of the population? Your dental health is usually a good indicator of how your child's teeth will progress. During your visit, we'll talk with you to determine how at risk your child is. If your child is low-risk, he/she may not need to come back to the dentist until age three. High-risk children may need to come in every three months. The majority of children should be seen by a dentist every six months.
A tooth can be chipped or fractured during an accident or a bad fall. A tooth that is chipped or not badly fractured can usually be handled on a nonemergency basis. A tooth that is badly fractured may have exposed nerve tissue inside the tooth. In this case, immediate attention is needed to avoid infection, abscess and pain.
A permanent tooth that is knocked out can sometimes be reimplanted. In most cases, only permanent, adult teeth are reimplanted into the mouth. Baby teeth are usually left out.
Immediately contact your dentist when a tooth is broken or knocked out. If you can find the tooth after the accident or injury, bring it with you when you seek medical help.
Frequently asked questions
How often should my child see the dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a dental check-up at least twice a year for most children; more frequently if there's increased risk of tooth decay, unusual growth patterns or poor oral hygiene.
What happens in a dental check-up?
- Review your child's medical and dental history
- Examine your child's teeth, oral tissues and jaws
- Clean and polish the teeth and apply a fluoride solution
- Discuss dental habits in an age-appropriate way
Why visit the dentist twice a year when my child has never had a cavity?
Regular dental visits help your child stay cavity-free because:
- Professional teeth cleanings remove debris that builds up on the teeth, irritates the gums and causes decay.
- We can monitor changes and catch dental disease early.
- If needed, we provide additional fluoride, sealants or other treatments.
- With good dental habits your child is more likely to grow and maintain strong, healthy teeth and gum.
- We can identify orthodontic problems and suggest treatment to guide the teeth as they emerge.
When should visits start?
It's important to begin early because dental problems can begin early. A big concern is early childhood caries. Once a child's diet includes anything besides breast-milk, erupted teeth are at risk for decay. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems.
When should I start cleaning my baby's teeth?
- Starting at birth, clean your child's gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water.
- As soon as teeth begin to appear, brush twice daily using toothpaste with fluoride and soft, age-appropriate toothbrush.
- Young children can't brush their own teeth effectively so continue to brush the teeth of a child under 2 years old and assist children ages 2-9.
How can I prevent tooth decay from nursing or using a bottle?
- At-will breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt and other food has been introduced.
- Your child should not fall asleep with a bottle with anything other than water.
- Avoid giving juice in a bottle.
- Wean from the bottle by about age 12-14 months.
Any advice on teething?
From 6 months to 3 years, your child may have tender gums when teeth erupt. Many children like a clean teething ring, cool spoon or cold wet washcloth. Or, simply rub baby's gums with a clean finger.
Should I worry about thumb and finger sucking?
Thumb sucking is normal for infants, but if it continues beyond age 3, talk to your pediatric dentist. Prolonged thumb or finger sucking can create crooked teeth or bite problems. We can suggest ways to address the habit.