A baby’s first visits to the dentists are mostly about getting babies used to the dentist’s chair and educating parents about how to care for baby’s teeth.
If your child has moved from the bottle to using a cup and doesn’t snack or drink in the middle of the night, you get a one year pass, until the age of two. Then the standard twice a year dental inspection recommendation comes into play. Somewhere between the ages of four to six, expect your dentist to take a first set of X-rays to check for cavities or other hidden problems.
Children’s primary (baby) teeth are more susceptible to decay than adult teeth as primary teeth have thinner and often less resilient enamel that offers less protection from bacteria.
Infants and toddlers primary teeth can be affected by an aggressive form of decay called early childhood caries or baby bottle tooth decay. The disease is associated with the frequent consumption of sugary drinks in baby bottles or sipping cups as it begins to occur in the upper front teeth before spreading quickly to other teeth.
Children who experience early childhood tooth decay are much more likely to develop subsequent problems. These problems include an increased risk of further tooth decay in both primary and permanent teeth. Extensive damage to the primary teeth can cause abscesses that harm the development of permanent teeth inside the gums.
Steps to take to keep your child’s teeth and gums healthy
Public Health England (PHE) recommends you take the following steps to protect your child’s teeth and keep them free from decay.
- reduce both the amount and how often sugary foods and drinks are given
- not add sugar to weaning foods or drinks
- aim to introduce drinking from a free-flow cup from 6 months of age and stop feeding from a bottle from 12 months of age
- start brushing children’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears
- supervise tooth brushing until they are 7 or 8 years old
- brush children’s teeth twice daily, including just before bed, using a fluoride toothpaste
- for babies just use a smear of fluoride toothpaste; from the age of three, use only a pea sized amount
- use only sugar-free medicines when possible
When to make your child’s first dental visit
Dental caries can spread very quickly in children; often it can be too late before parents notice any problems.
PHE recommend that children should be registered with the dentist as soon as the first teeth appear and visit regularly to be given age-appropriate preventive advice and ensure any problems are identified early.
More than 30% of children in England did not see an NHS dentist between 2012 and 2014; it’s so important not to let that happen to your young ones. Make that appointment with the dentist as soon as your baby’s teeth start to appear.