A: Baby teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay from their very first appearance, on average between the ages of six and 12 months. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) encourages all parents and caregivers to “Get it Done in Year One,” meaning to ensure that all infants visit the pediatric dentist upon the appearance of their first tooth, or no later than their first birthday.
Proper care for baby teeth is imperative as they serve several critical functions, including fostering good nutrition by permitting proper chewing, aiding speech development and helping proper development of permanent teeth by saving space for them.
Proper oral health care practices for babies can also help to prevent tooth decay, which is not only painful, but can prevent a child from eating correctly, impacting overall health and development. Undetected and untreated tooth decay can lead to infection, loss of teeth and expensive and mostly preventable emergency and restorative interventions.
The year one dental visit can actually save money. In fact, studies have shown that children who have their first dental visit before age one have 40 percent lower dental costs in their first five years than children who do not, due to the cost of dental and medical procedures that may be necessary as a result of poor oral health.
Visiting a pediatric dentist by the time the first baby tooth appears enables the child to begin a lifelong preventive dental care program to minimize tooth decay and cavities. Pediatric dentists can detect early tooth decay, provide parents with information on proper oral and facial development, determine fluoride needs and more.
For more information on infant oral health care or to find a pediatric dentist in your area, visit www.aapd.org.
Dr. John R. Liu
Dr. Liu is the managing partner of Eastside Pediatric Dental Group in Issaquah, Wash., and the President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.