Parents are often surprised – shocked even – to learn that their child should visit the dentist by the time s/he reaches one year of age. Children rarely have even a handful of teeth at this age, so why is it so important? The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both agree that all children visit the dentist by their first birthday in order to instill a life-long commitment to their dental health.
Both the ADA and AAP believe that there are benefits to early dentistry in children:
- Early familiarity with the dentist. Children who are brought into the dentist from a very early age will simply understand that going to the dentist is a regular part of life. They will become familiar with the dental hygienist, dentist, dental tools, and procedures early, thus relieving much of the stress that many children feel if they do not visit the dentist until they are older.
- Educate parents about proper oral health. Even those first baby teeth need to be brushed twice a day. Once young children are introduced to solid foods, their teeth are immediately vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. However, many parents neglect brushing their child’s teeth simply because there are so few in the mouth it does not seem important. However, early prevention is the best prevention, and parents who are well-educated on the importance of caring for their child’s first teeth will understand that proper oral hygiene begins early.
- Discuss and break bad oral habits. This is often the hardest discussion with parents, but it is a necessary one. Children need to break the habit of using a pacifier and/or sucking their thumbs or fingers by their first birthdays. While it is understandable how this is difficult because pacifiers and thumb sucking are forms of comfort to young children, these habits can cause damage to the formation of the teeth and palate that will require costly and extensive dental work. Also, allowing a child to fall asleep while drinking at bottle or nursing is a habit that needs to be broken early. Milk contains sugars, and if these sugars are allowed to remain in the mouth over night, they will leave their teeth extremely vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay.
- Understand the link between diet and oral health. Everyone appreciates a good treat, but these treats need to be exceptions and not the rule. Juice, candy, soda, sweet tea, and desserts can have devastating effects on children’s teeth. These foods and beverages are laden with sugars and acids that will eat away at the enamel of the teeth. When parents understand the link between diet and oral health, they are better equipped to make healthy choices a regular part of their children’s lives.
At South Texas Dental, we want to partner with parents to provide the most optimal level of oral health. By bringing your child into the dentist from the time s/he reaches one year of age, you are helping to promote a lifetime of oral health. Contact us to schedule an appointment!
Posted on Behalf of South Texas Dental