by Dr. Abby Brecher, Board Certified Pediatric Dentist, Long Island City

New parents often ask about when to schedule their child’s first dental visit. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends the first dental visit be within 6 months of the appearance of a child’s first tooth and no later than their first birthday.

Eruption of teeth

On average, a child’s first tooth starts to come in (erupt) between 6 and 10 months of age. By around the age of 3, a full complement of 20 primary (baby) teeth have erupted. A tooth becomes susceptible to decay as soon as it appears in the oral cavity.

Why baby teeth matter

The best predictor of permanent tooth decay is primary tooth decay. At around age 6, children enter the transitional dental stage as permanent teeth begin to replace their baby teeth, a process that continues until around age 12-13.

In the transitional dental stage, primary molars preserve arch space for eruption of their permanent successors. During this time, decay present on baby teeth can spread to adjacent, erupted permanent teeth. Premature loss of a baby tooth may result in movement of erupted permanent teeth and/or space loss making orthodontic treatment necessary.

What to expect

It is common for parents to worry about their child’s first dental visit. Thus, knowing what to expect often helps. Your pediatric dentist will perform a thorough exam of your child’s teeth and oral cavity, carry out a professional cleaning and provide a topical fluoride treatment, applied directly to the tooth enamel). Our goal is always to provide a positive first experience for the child and to educate parents about their children’s oral health. Learning effective oral hygiene practices and diet counseling are important components of the first dental visit. Positive early and regular dental visits provide parents with age appropriate information regarding their child’s growth and development and lay a long term foundation for establishment of oral health.