When it comes to booking their child’s first dental appointment, a lot of parents might be wondering how soon is too soon. According to the Canadian Dental Association, this question is backwards. The organization advises that children be introduced to the dental office within six months of the eruption of their first tooth. This accomplishes a couple things. First, it allows the dental team to assess whether there are problem areas within the mouth that need tending to. Second, it helps the child acclimatize to the environment, checkup procedures, equipment, and staff.
For the most part, this is all well and good; however our dental hygienist, Melissa, says a child’s first appointment should actually be made before birth.
“The first appointment should always be made when the mother is pregnant,” says Melissa. “Usually in the first year after having a baby mothers don’t come in for visits. Once they do come back, their child typically already has teeth and we can’t back-track to educate them about how to care for these properly.”
In fact, Melissa says she typically doesn’t see children for the first time until they’re three or four. Bringing them in this late in life can be dangerous. If their dental hygiene habits and diet aren’t ideal by that age, they can fall victim to cavities and other forms of decay. Because baby teeth have weaker enamel than their adult counterparts, this damage can be particularly detrimental and even cause long-lasting issues. Although baby teeth are themselves temporary they play an important role during development, acting as space-holders for a child’s next set of pearly whites. Interference with this delicate arrangement can cause malformation.
“We definitely want to see the child within their first year so we can educate his or her parents about exactly how they should be taking care of these baby teeth and the rest of the mouth,” says Melissa.
After the crucial pre-birth visit, she recommends that children come in every six to nine months to ensure their growth is monitored and any problems can be dealt with at the appropriate time.
Other Issues to be Aware of
Studies by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggest children are getting an unhealthy amount of added sugar in their diets. Along with causing other health problems, excessive sugar consumption can be the catalyst for a boatload of dental issues.
Melissa says the prevalence of this problem is mainly due to the active nature of today’s society, in which people don’t always have time to prepare meals.
“But parents can deal with this obstacle by taking the time to be more aware of what they’re feeding their kids,” she says.
Other natural occurrences such as teething can painful if not treated properly. In these cases, Melissa says parents can simply use cold items, such as a wet cloth in a bag that’s partly frozen, to sooth the area. They should seek medical attention if other illnesses accompany the teething process.
Active children might also be susceptible to blunt damage to their teeth if they participate in sports such as hockey or baseball. The equipment and contact involved in such activities have the potential to knock out baby or adult teeth. Melissa says this doesn’t have to be a disastrous – or even necessary – experience. Depending on the stage in life in which it occurs, “flippers,” orthodontic work, veneers, or crowns can be used to replace the missing teeth.
“But it’s usually easier if your child wears a mouth guard to begin with,” she says.
These can be custom-made to fit the child’s mouth to provide comfort.
Taking care of your kid’s teeth doesn’t have to be a nuisance or herculean task. The sooner you begin booking your child’s first dental appointment and given assistance with dental issues as they arise – or actively try to prevent them from developing in the first place – the better off they’ll be for life.