August 22, 2022
“At what age should I first take my child to the dentist?” That is arguably the most common question pediatric dentists hear from new mothers. The American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) recommends children see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his or her first birthday. (1)
Following this recommendation can lead to overall health benefits for your child. Studies have shown that the impact of tooth decay on child development can be significant. Childhood cavities have been linked to lower than ideal body weight and lost time in school. (2) The effects of poor oral health may be felt for a lifetime.
Mothers seem to intuitively understand the importance of taking their child to a pediatrician when they are young. However, most mothers overlook the necessity of oral health. Oral health is an important and critical part of your child’s overall health.
A recent survey sponsored by the AAPD, revealed that 97 percent of respondents were not aware that their children should visit a pediatric dentist when their first tooth appears, or no later than their first birthday. (3) That statistic is alarming. It indicates that there is a large population of children who are susceptible to tooth decay and disease.
Tooth decay can begin as early as the teeth begin to emerge, typically at six months, and often progresses rapidly. Left untreated, it can destroy tiny teeth and lead to needless pain and suffering, infection, loss of function, increased health care costs and lifelong health consequences. (3)
Now that you know at what age you should first take your child to the dentist, the next question you are probably asking yourself is which dentist do I take them to? Be careful, not all dentists are the same.
Although general dentists are trained to provide basic dental services, pediatric dentists receive an additional two to three years of specialty training after dental school with an emphasis on child psychology, growth and development, behavior management, pediatric medicine, handling children with special medical needs, and evidence based methods for treating baby teeth. Most general dentists only receive 2-4 weeks of pediatric training as part of their curriculum in dental school. With that understanding, ask yourself, who would you rather have taking care of your child's teeth?
I like to think of it in terms of a fast food analogy. Here it goes: If you are in the mood for sushi, would you go to a restaurant where they specialize in serving hamburgers? Probably not. Most people would go to a Japanese restaurant because they specialize in making sushi. Although the hamburger restaurant may be able to whip up some sushi for you, they probably would not have the right ingredients, tools, and training to provide you with a desirable product. They may be an excellent hamburger restaurant, in fact, they may even be your favorite restaurant, but making sushi is not what they specialize in. You would get a much better experience and an overall better value by going to a Japanese restaurant in the first place.
Don't trust your child's dental care to just any dentist! Pediatric dentists are better skilled and better equipped to provide specialized care for your child's dental needs.