Once upon a time the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended the parent wait until their child was three years old prior to having their first dental visit. Empirical evidence subsequently revealed 36 months was far too long to wait before initiating intervention from an oral health care provider. As a result the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) followed by the AAP changed their recommendations. Your little one should establish their dental home around 6 months of age and no later than their 1st birthday. For many of you I may already be preaching to the choir. However, there are a good number of really great parents that still think they should wait until the age of 3 to bring their child for their first dental check up. Additionally, there may be many of you that already know the AAPD’s recommendation but are thinking, “My child doesn’t have all of their teeth yet so why would I bring them to the dentist?”.
Prevention of disease is less invasive and more cost effective than controlling or attempting to cure it. Yes, dental decay is a disease, we’ll discuss why in another blog post. Your child’s dentist will guide you on what to anticipate. During your child’s first check up you should expect to learn about proper use of the bottle, proper use of fluoridated toothpaste, depending on where you live the appropriate use of fluoride supplements, nutritional counseling, the impact of oral health on overall health and wellness, how long is too long to maintain a non-nutritive sucking habit (pacifier, digits), when to floss, etc.
During the first year of life even a well child will visit the pediatrician a number of times. Naturally, parents may want to defer oral health questions to the primary care physician. However, the pediatric dentist, not your child’s pediatrician is the most suited to guide you on the best way to optimize your child’s oral health. Pediatric dentists have received an additional 24 to 36 months of training after dental school to address the unique needs of children. If you haven’t established a dental home for your child as of yet, take the guess work out of trying to figure out what’s best for your child’s oral health. Please visit www.aapd.org to find a pediatric dentist in your area.