For many children and their parents, a diagnosis of one or more cavities can make these first dental appointments discouraging. Parents must call off work, take children out of school, arrange transportation, and set aside part of their budgets for treatment.
Tooth decay in young children can introduce a lifetime of excess dental appointments, pain, difficulty eating, and emergency room visits. And, while common, cavities are not a necessary part of childhood — they are entirely preventable.
What it’s going to take
Pediatric dentists urge parents to start dental care before age one, supported by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Unfortunately, only one quarter of parents take their children to see the dentist by their first birthday.
We encourage parents to visit a pediatric dentist with the arrival of the first baby tooth, typically between the first four and six months. At this early appointment, parents will learn about hygiene routines, fluoride, and healthy eating habits to prevent cavities and gum disease. Choosing a dentist is too important a decision to do in a hurry or an emergency.
A lifelong relationship
A relationship with a pediatric dentist early in a child’s life creates a comfortable space for parents to engage with pediatric dentists on preventive care and advice on topics like teething, pacifiers, thumb sucking, and sippy cups. It also provides the opportunity to detect cavities for quick treatment or to address early warning signs of tooth decay.
Working together, a parent and the pediatric dentist can select the best treatment methods to make a child’s visit as comfortable as possible. When emergencies do come up, parents can spend more time comforting their child and less time searching for a dentist because they already have a dental home. To find a pediatric dentist in your area, visit the website of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, www.AAPD.org (or www.mychildrensteeth.org).