Dental professionals are urging new parents to take infants to the dentist and warning them of the outcomes of postponing their first visit.
Up until recently, a child’s first dental visit traditionally took place at the age of three or four, largely because there was little concern over baby teeth that would eventually fall out. It is also currently not uncommon for a child to develop cavities as young as five or six years old and only come to understand the importance of good oral health habits after having them filled.
This is just part of the reason why dentists around the world are now recommending that toddlers first visit the dentist when they are only six months to one year old.
Start Seeing the Dentist Early
South Carolina pediatric dentist Dr. Thom Atkins told the Aiken Standard that the earlier a child visits the dentist, the better his or her oral health will be as they grow older.
“We like to see children earlier than most people anticipate,” he said. “We prefer to see them within six months of the first tooth coming in or by the age of 1, whichever comes first.”
Early dental visits can identify potential problems before they evolve and allow the child to become comfortable in a dentist’s office, similar to the way they become comfortable in the office of their pediatrician around the same time.
Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at England’s Royal College of Surgeons, suggested that it’s only natural for children to become frightened of the dentist if their visit involves treating cavities or rotting teeth.
“If a first dental visit results in a stressful, traumatic experience, this could have a serious life-long effect on a child’s willingness to engage in the dental process,” he told the Telegraph.
Parents Can Hold Infants
Infants who visit the dentist are held by a parent while the dentist performs an examination and applies fluoride which, surprisingly, doesn’t cause discomfort in most infant patients.
According to the Aiken Standard, studies have proven that children who receive fluoride applications during infancy are less likely to develop oral health problems such as cavities, saving their parents a great deal of money.
Early Visits Help Parent’s as Well
Much of these early visits are additionally devoted to informing parents about brushing and flossing routines as well as potentially harmful effects of pacifiers, sippy cups and sugary snacks.
New research from England shows that most parents still believe children shouldn’t visit the dentist until they are three or four. Within the last year, 80% of one to two-year-olds in England did not visit the dentist, which seems to explain why 9,220 tooth extractions on children aged one to four were performed throughout the same period. Of these extractions, 48 involved infants who were less than a year old.
Most of the extractions were attributed to tooth decay, the most common reason young British children find themselves in the hospital.
Along with many other widespread dental problems, tooth decay is highly preventable as long as the patient practices good oral hygiene. These annual figures mark a 24% increase in tooth extractions on British children aged one to four over the past ten years.