The idea of taking a baby to the dentist may seem strange to many parents. But studies show that parents should take their child to the dentist at the first sign of a new tooth, or by their first birthday.
Left untreated, tooth decay in young children’s primary teeth puts them at risk for future problems like damaged permanent teeth; increased vulnerability to infections in other parts of the body, such as the ears, sinuses and the brain; impaired speech development, and reduced self-esteem.
Establishing healthy dental care habits from the start is an essential step in reducing these potential issues in the future and ultimately improving the child’s overall health. Babies should see the dentist at the first sign of a tooth, or by their first birthday. Children should regularly see the dentist, with preventative visits every six months.
To help get an early start, here are a few tips for parents of infants, toddlers and preschoolers:
- The earlier you start, the earlier they learn: Children are often afraid of going to the dentist, but positive early visits make the process more natural as time goes on.
- Use your insurance benefits: Many dental plans, including AHCCCS, include dental coverage for young children. Take advantage and get that early start.
- Find a family dentist: Make dental care a habit by finding a dentist and make regular visits. Keeping a consistent provider will make regular visits simpler to coordinate.
- Brush for them, with them, then beside them: Build the habit of dental care daily, through regular brushing every evening before bed. When they are a baby, start by cleaning their gums. When they get older, help them brush their teeth. Once they have it mastered, use the time to brush alongside them. Make it a special family ritual.
- Take care of the gums: Gum care is often overlooked for children at home. Start when they are babies by cleaning gums with a soft cloth after meals. As they grow, make flossing part of the daily dental care routine.
- Make brushing fun: Turn brushing into fun time with brushing videos or musical timers with different music, themes or characters. Find video options at Teeth.FirstThingsFirst.org.
- Find a special toothbrush: Whether it’s a favorite color or character, children often respond to having their own special toothbrush. Make brushing something they look forward to.
With the help of these tips and regular visits to the dentists, children have a chance at an early and healthy start for their oral care.