Eric G. Jackson, DDS, MAGD, FICOI, FICD, FADI
Without a doubt, one of the questions I most often get asked is “when should I bring my child for their first dental visit?” Parents often receive conflicting advice due to the multitude of sources and opinions available these days. With this article, it’s my intention to provide you the facts and reasons behind the recommendations to allow you to determine what is best for your child.
“So when DO I take my child for her first dental visit!” The traditional “cookie cutter” answer to this question has always been “around the age of three” but times, and recommendations, change. I feel strongly that the modern, proper answer to this question is very family and patient specific. If forced to paint with a broad brush, I agree with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). According to their website, the AAPD advises a child’s first dental appointment should occur “when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday.” At first read, this may sound a bit crazy or self-serving to many of you...and that’s understandable! The average patient in our office possesses what I term a very high “Dental IQ.” For over 30 years, our patients have practiced good oral hygiene and have passed that along to their children and grandchildren.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the average dental patient nationwide. To the many people, even basic concepts such as the importance of biannual dental cleanings and quality brushing/flossing habits are foreign. Often, these people have not been educated as to WHY dental care, especially early dental care, is important. The classic example of this mentality that I use is a person who is resigned to the inevitability of getting all their teeth extracted and dentures made. Just because your parents and grandparents had dentures by the time they turned 30 does not mean that you are destined for the same fate! The AAPD’s recommendation is clearly devised to educate the PARENTS of the child and stop the cycle of dentally uninformed generations from propagating their beliefs. I completely support the concept of what I call “Early Intervention, Early Education.” This concept is the primary reason for the 6-12 month recommended first appointment, and is why the focus is on discussion and less on cleaning.
Perhaps the most severe result of lack of early intervention is termed “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.” This serious condition affects far more children than you might think, and has severe repercussions on not only the baby teeth, but the permanent teeth and the patient’s outlook towards dentistry as well. In much the same manner that prior generations put babies to bed on their stomachs, they also would commonly given babies bottles of mild in their cribs at night. These children would drink throughout the night and continuously bathe the teeth in milk. This is extremely detrimental as milk has very high sugar content. Decay rapidly progresses through the teeth, especially the front teeth on the upper jaw. Pictures of this can be seen below. This devastating condition is perhaps the foremost reason that new parents should bring their child for a dental visit when the first baby tooth erupts. By reaching new parents at this time, dental professionals can educate prior to any damage to the teeth.
“Baby Bottle Tooth Decay”
If parents have had an “Early Intervention, Early Education” appointment with an older child, they will often inquire as to any updates at their own hygiene appointment, and defer the newest child’s appointment to an age when a traditional dental cleaning can easily be completed. For most children, this is around the age of two or three years old. Every child is different and some acclimate to the dentist at different rates. This is why over 20 years ago we at Oral Health Care Professionals created “Tooth Fairy Day” and host it twice per year. This complimentary day serves as a low stress high fun method of desensitizing preschool age children to visiting the dentist. By attending Tooth Fairy Day, children acclimate to the dental operatories, sitting in the dental chair, having air/water squirted, and most of all, having a stranger examine their teeth. Each of these things is very foreign and can be quite scary for a child. Even young patients that are hesitant at Tooth Fairy Day flourish at their next appointment as much of the “newness” has been removed from the equation. For a video and more information about Tooth Fairy Day, please visit our website at http://www.oralhealthcareprofessionals.com/tooth-fairy.html and view our Tooth Fair Day video on my YouTube Channel here: https://youtu.be/H7oFcrpBlGQ
If you would like to speak about pediatric dentistry, or any other dental topic, please feel free to call the office and schedule a complimentary appointment with me. Email and Twitter are also available options. I am extremely passionate about modern dentistry and love discussing it with patients, so don’t hesitate to contact me.
Eric G. Jackson, DDS, MAGD, FICOI, FICD, FADI