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New parents often ask, “When should my child first see a dentist?”

The short answer is “first visit by first birthday.”

That’s the view of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. We, here at Dr.Dennis Dunne’s office, agree.

The idea of such early dental visits is still surprising to many new parents. However, national studies have shown that preschool-aged children are getting more cavities. More than 1 in 4 children in the United States has had at least one cavity by the age of 4. Many kids get cavities as early as age 2.

To prevent early childhood cavities, parents first have to find out their child’s risk of developing cavities. They also need to learn how to manage diet, hygiene and fluoride to prevent problems. But cavities aren’t all that parents need to learn about their child’s dental health. The age 1 dental visit lets parents discuss:

  • How to care for an infant’s or toddler’s mouth
  • Proper use of fluoride
  • Oral habits, including finger and thumb sucking
  • Ways to prevent accidents that could damage the face and teeth
  • Teething and milestones of development
  • The link between diet and oral health

After this first visit, Dr. Dunne will suggest a schedule of follow-up visits. In the past, dentists typically called for visits every six months. Now, the schedule may vary according to each child’s needs and risks. As your child grows, our dental team will help you learn how to prevent common oral problems.

The age 1 care visit is similar to a well-baby check at the physician’s office. At the visit, you can expect Dr. Dunne to:

  • Review your child’s history
  • Respond to your questions and concerns
  • Talk with you about your child’s overall oral health
  • Tooth development
  • Teething
  • Bite (how your child’s teeth will come together)
  • Soft tissues such as gums and cheeks
  • Oral habits such as sucking
  • Factors that affect the risk of cavities, such as diet, hygiene practices, fluoride use and whether others in the family have had cavities
  • How to prevent trauma to your child’s mouth
  • Show how to clean your child’s teeth and give you a chance to practice
  • Give specific advice about home care, including hygiene, diet and use of toothpaste and other fluorides
  • Tell you what to expect as your child grows and develops in the coming months
  • Suggest a schedule for follow-up care
  • One of our hygienists may also clean your child’s teeth. This is likely to occur if your child’s teeth have a stain that commonly appears in infants. The hygienist also may apply fluoride, particularly if your child has a higher than average risk of developing cavities.

Before leaving our office, you will have a clear idea about:

  • Your child’s development
  • Your responsibilities
  • Follow-up care
  • Your child’s likelihood of having problems with cavities or bite

Should have any further concerns or questions, we will be happy to chat for as long as you’d like. We want to be sure you leave our office informed and confident in your child’s dental care.

Excerpts taken from article published by Colgate and reviewed by Columbia University College of Dental Medicine.

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