How old were you when you went to the dentist for the first time? Most of us will say 7 or later. But times are a changin’. Now, when you take your toddler to the pediatrician, you will likely be encouraged to take them to the dentist. But if you’re like many other parents, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why bother… aren’t their teeth just going to fall out anyway?”
Why the Dentist at Age 1?
The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that a child’s first visit should be when the first tooth erupts in the mouth, no later than age one or two. Although taking your one-year-old to the dentist sounds like overkill, there are good reasons why you should take your child early on:
- Catch something earlier on
Baby teeth play an important role in your child’s ability to bite, chew, and speak. Cavities can develop early on and eat away at tooth enamel, causing your child pain and discomfort. The earlier you catch a cavity, the less pain they will have to endure. The dentist will also help reinforce the good things to eat versus things to be eaten in moderation.
- Establish trust, decrease fear
By bringing your child to the dentist early in life, they’ll become familiar with the dentist, office, staff, and procedures. This will hopefully decrease their fear and anxiety, if any, over time. Different dentist offices use different tactics to put a child at ease. Some play games, give little rewards, or explain some of the tools they use to make the child more relaxed. Our goal as parents is to find a dentist that your child feels very comfortable with, so that going for regular dental visits doesn’t become something they dread.
- Establish the importance of good dental hygiene
Taking your child to the dentist regularly will demonstrate how important dental hygiene is. Studies show just how important good dental hygiene is to overall health. There is now sufficient scientific evidence to show that two of the three gum disease-causing bacteria are capable of moving throughout the body and have been consistently found in brain tissue. This means that these motile bacteria can leave the mouth and enter the brain. Gum disease is now being tied to many diseases including Alzheimer’s, pancreatic cancer, and heart disease.
Although your one-year-old won’t have to worry about grown-up diseases any time soon, helping them establish healthy habits early on can make all the difference later in their adult health.