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When Should Children Have Their First Dental Visit?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) suggests that parents should make an initial “well-baby” appointment with a pediatric dentist approximately six months after the emergence of the first tooth, or no later than the child’s first birthday.

Although this may seem surprisingly early, the incidence of infant and toddler tooth decay has been rising in recent years.  Tooth decay and early cavities can be exceptionally painful if they are not attended to immediately, and can also set the scene for poor oral health in later childhood.

The pediatric dentist is a specialist in child psychology and child behavior, and should be viewed as an important source of information, help, and guidance.  Oftentimes, the pediatric dentist can provide strategies for eliminating unwanted oral habits (for example, pacifier use and thumb sucking) and can also help parents in establishing a sound daily oral routine for the child.

What potential dental problems can babies experience?

A baby is at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first tooth emerges.  During the first visit, the pediatric dentist will help parents implement a preventative strategy to protect the teeth from harm, and also demonstrate how infant teeth should be brushed and flossed.

In particular, infants who drink breast milk, juice, baby formula, soda, or sweetened water from a baby bottle or sippy cup are at high-risk for early childhood caries (cavities).  To counteract this threat, the pediatric dentist discourages parents from filling cups with sugary fluids, dipping pacifiers in honey, and transmitting oral bacteria to the child via shared spoons and/or cleaning pacifiers in their own mouths.

Importantly, the pediatric dentist can also assess and balance the infant’s fluoride intake.  Too much fluoride ingestion between the ages of one and four years old may lead to a condition known as fluorosis in later childhood.  Conversely, too little fluoride may render young tooth enamel susceptible to tooth decay.

What happens during the first visit?

Pediatric dentists have fun-filled, stimulating dental offices.  All dental personnel are fully trained to communicate with infants and young children.

During the initial visit, the pediatric dentist will advise parents to implement a good oral care routine, ask questions about the child’s oral habits, and examine the child’s emerging teeth.  The pediatric dentist and parent sit knee-to-knee for this examination to enable the child to view the parent at all times.  If the infant’s teeth appear stained, the dentist may clean them.  Oftentimes, a topical fluoride treatment will be applied to the teeth after this cleaning.

What questions may the pediatric dentist ask during the first visit?

The pediatric dentist will ask questions about current oral care, diet, the general health of the child, the child’s oral habits, and the child’s current fluoride intake.

Once answers to these questions have been established, the pediatric dentist can advise parents on the following issues:

  • Accident prevention.
  • Adding xylitol and fluoride to the infant’s diet.
  • Choosing an ADA approved, non-fluoridated brand of toothpaste for the infant.
  • Choosing an appropriate toothbrush.
  • Choosing an orthodontically correct pacifier.
  • Correct positioning of the head during tooth brushing.
  • Easing the transition from sippy cup to adult-sized drinking glasses (12-14 months).
  • Eliminating fussing during the oral care routine.
  • Establishing a drink-free bedtime routine.
  • Maintaining good dietary habits.
  • Minimizing the risk of tooth decay.
  • Reducing sugar and carbohydrate intake.
  • Teething and developmental milestones.

If you have further questions or concerns about the timing or nature of your child’s first oral checkup, please ask your pediatric dentist.

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Dr. Peters has been my dentist since I was 15 years old and his father was my orthodontist. Dr. Peters comes from a legacy of the most gifted professionals in his field. He is highly respected. To his credit, my daughter, two sons, mother, sister… My entire family trusts, only, Dr. Peters for all their dental needs. Hands-down, he is the best in his profession.
Although we still live in Fresno, we drive four hours away to see Dr. Peters. My family's teeth are exceptionally beautiful! We wouldn't trust no one else to touch our teeth! Jealous as we may be of those who live in beautiful San Diego, we are willing to share him with you. Enjoy! :)

Cynthia B.

I first went to Dr Peters for a tooth ache. He saw me on a Sunday! His office is open every Saturday and Sunday which is very convenient for me since I work during the week. His staff was very welcoming. It turned out all I needed was a filling which they did for me that day. He is a perfectionist and very gentle. I love my new dentist.

Dana N.

My mom, Maryam Bahriny, has been going to Dr. Peters for the past year or so. She was so impressed with the quality of care and the treatment she received from the dentist and his staff that she recommended them to the rest of the family and friends. We all feel blessed to have found this office. The beauty of this office is that their number one focus is addressing concerns and treating patients with the highest quality yet the least expensive way. We completely trust this office with our dental needs.

Sahar B.

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