A Child’s First Visit

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At what age should I start bringing my child in to see the dentist?

If you are wondering this same question, don’t worry, we get it all the time. The answer we give is simple: As soon as the first tooth appears. Many believe that age 3 is a good time to start, but I’ll give you various reasons to start a lot sooner. The front two bottom teeth will erupt when your baby is about 6 months old, and many teeth will erupt within the next year, so waiting until your child has turned three is a long time to wait.

Is it ok to put my baby or toddler to sleep with a bottle? That is another question we commonly hear. Children should finish their bottle before they go to sleep, but there are many children that need a bottle or sippy cup to comfort them and help them fall asleep. If these bottles are filled with juice or milk (especially chocolate or strawberry milk), it can lead to early childhood tooth decay (often times called baby bottle decay). If your child needs a bottle to help them fall asleep, fill it with water. Most of the time its not the sweet drink they want, it is instead the repetitive and soothing action of sucking on a bottle that babies and toddlers need to help them fall asleep. Understand that baby teeth need to be protected from the time they erupt, and here are some reasons why:

Reason #1 is because their new teeth have probably been exposed to decay causing bacteria. Naturally, a babies mouth will not have harmful bacteria present to start decay in their young teeth. This harmful bacteria is often times transferred from an adults mouth through common practices such as sharing food, utensils, or a glass of water with your child and by cleaning off your baby’s pacifier with your mouth. That harmful bacteria will put your baby at a higher risk for caries. If you have poor oral hygiene then the risk of this harmful bacteria being transferred to your baby is even higher. Start protecting your baby’s oral health by avoiding the potentially harmful activities mentioned above.

Reason #2 is to get the needed fluoride on their teeth as soon as possible. With the exception of a few locations, Utah’s water doesn’t have fluoride in it. Your baby’s teeth will need as much protection as possible from harmful bacteria and sugary drinks.

Reason #3 is so your toddler will develop a trusting relationship with the dentist. I don’t blame the young child that is scared when they come to our office for the first time and is exposed to so many unfamiliar things. To them, the stranger behind the mask, goggles, and gloves is not there to help them but instead is an unrecognizable figure bent on putting scary looking instruments in their mouth. It is hard to reason with a 4 year old that the dentist is a good guy when they’ve never met him before. But, when your child has been in to see us every 6 months since before they were a year old, that barrier is almost non-existent. They look at the dentist as the funny guy who “counts their teeth” and in return they get a balloon and a token to get a prize when they leave. The relationship that your child has with the dentist is greatly improved if they start coming to us at an early age.