According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the first dental visit of a child should be scheduled at the time when the first tooth erupts or no later than his or her first birthday.

The first appointment can always be a bit worrying for parents because they do not really know what to expect. Most parents are also worried that their babies won’t be cooperative enough on the day of the visit.

What happens in a typical first dental checkup for babies?

Unlike for older children, the best way to examine an infant’s oral health is by doing a knee-to-knee position with the parent. We gently interact with the baby and never do anything in haste.

Your baby’s first ever dental visit usually lasts for 20 to 30 minutes and a significant amount of time is spent educating the parents about their infant’s developing teeth. We emphasize on feeding patterns and in making parents aware of routine oral hygiene habits to avoid early childhood caries or ECC (also called baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries).

What is early childhood caries?

ECC is defined by the AAPD as the presence of one or more decayed (noncavitated or cavitated lesions), missing (due to caries), or filled tooth surfaces in any primary tooth in a child under the age of six. In children younger than 3 years, any sign of smooth-surface caries is indicative of severe early childhood caries.

Milk does not get stuck in between teeth but when it pools in your baby’s mouth all night long, the bacteria in the mouth feed on lactose(the sugar in milk) and produce acids that break down the tooth structure and cause cavities on a child’s milk teeth.

The incidence of milk bottle caries can soar high when there is no awareness of early childhood decay and this is one the reason why early checkups are important.

What happens when a baby gets decayed teeth?

Left untreated, decay on your child’s tiny tooth can lead to deep cavities, pain, infection and loss of function.The worst scenario is when tooth decay progress very rapidly and could lead to a situation where dental treatment has to be done under general anesthesia as very young child is unable to cooperate in the chair.

6 practical ways to avoid early tooth decay

1. Give your child water after each feed.

2. Wipe your child’s teeth with wet cotton after each feed.

3. Use fluoride toothpaste twice daily after breakfast and before bedtime.

4. Avoid night time feeding.

5. Avoid giving your child juices which are concentrates of sugar and acids.

6. Regular dental checkups every six months.

It is not rare that we see children with profound treatment needs at a very early age. Maintain your child’s oral hygiene and bring them to a pediatric dentist to avoid problems before they arise.

Remember, awareness is the key to oral health for life. 

We are in it to win it!