two young boys sit in bathroom with toothbrushes

When Should a Child Start Going to the Dentist?

Team Pediatric Dentistry

Is your child ready for their first dentist appointment? How do you know when it’s the right time? Do babies need to go to the dentist? How often should they go?

These are common questions from parents about when they should start taking their child to the dentist for the first time and on a regular basis. Many parents are unsure when is the best time to begin preventative dental care. Here’s what dental experts recommend.

A Child Should See the Dentist Around Their First Birthday

Babies start to get teeth anywhere from 6 months to one year of age, on average. Some will get teeth sooner, and others later. Many dentists and dental experts say that babies should see the dentist within 6 months of their first tooth erupting. Since most babies have at least one tooth by their first birthday, this is a good milestone to use. After the first appointment, you should return to the dentist every 6 months for preventative dental care.

Why So Young?

A one year old baby may seem young to take to the dentist. You may be wondering how they will sit still for a cleaning and whether or not they will be scared or understand what is happening. The good news is that they don’t need to. No one is expecting your one year old to sit for a long dental cleaning and exam. The idea is to get your baby used to the idea of going to the dentist and to do a quick cleaning and checkup to make sure there are no major dental issues that have emerged.

What To Expect at the First Appointment

At your baby’s first visit, you will meet the dentist and staff so that everyone can get to know each other. Your dentist will ask you some questions about your baby’s habits and history and discuss dental hygiene practices at home. You’ll be given instructions on how to care for your baby’s teeth and tips about their diet and nutrition.

Your baby will be given a brief dental exam in a fun, friendly manner to help them feel comfortable. The first visit may also entail a cleaning of the teeth that have emerged as well as fluoride treatment and possibly X-Rays. We will only do what you and your baby are comfortable with during the first visit. The most important thing is to create a positive experience so that your child develops a healthy mindset about going to the dentist.

Why is Early Dental Care So Important?

There are quite a few reasons why it is important to start your baby’s dental care early, including:

  • Preventing decay. The number one reason to start taking your child to the dentist early in their life is to prevent the teeth from decaying. When food remains on teeth it forms plaque. Plaque is a sticky residue that clings to the teeth. If not brushed away, it hardens and turns into tartar that can only be removed by dental tools. Even with regular brushing twice a day, some plaque may build up on the teeth. Plaque feeds the bacteria that cause cavities, making them more likely to form and require filling. Regular dental cleanings help to prevent cavities.
  • Preventing gum disease. Plaque and tartar on the teeth can also lead to gum disease, which is a bacterial infection of the gums. Gum disease can develop if the teeth are not brushed often enough and the plaque clinging to the teeth causes the gums to become infected. Routine dental cleanings and exams remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and detect the early signs of gum disease so that it can be treated.
  • Prepare the way for permanent teeth. You may think that the baby teeth (primary teeth) are not important because they will just fall out. However, the baby teeth prepare the way for the permanent teeth. If they are decayed or fall out early, your child may have trouble chewing for years until the permanent teeth come in. Some baby teeth remain in your child’s mouth until they are almost teenagers, so it is important to take care of them.

Get a Positive Start at ABQ Pediatric Dentistry

Starting off on the right foot for your baby’s dental care sets the tone for a lifetime of dental health. From the first visit all the way into adulthood, a healthy start matters and has a residual effect. At ABQ Pediatric Dentistry, we form a positive relationship with you and your child so that maintaining their dental health is easy. Babies and children of all ages enjoy coming to our office.

Call 505-888-3520 today to schedule a consultation or book an appointment. We look forward to helping your child get a healthy start to dental care.