With all the care a new baby needs, it’s easy for parents to forget about dental care.

The truth is, a child’s baby teeth play a vital role in his or her first year of growth and development.  For instance, baby teeth:

  • Enable your child to chew food properly and gain the nutrition they need to grow
  • Assist in speech development
  • Provide a path for the permanent teeth to follow

That’s why good dental care is so important during the first year of your child’s life.

Keys to Oral Health in the First 12 Months

Baby teeth are vulnerable to tooth decay from their very first appearance, typically between the ages of six and 12 months.

That’s why doctors and dentists agree — including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Children should have their first dental visit by age one.

Otherwise, cavities can go undetected and untreated, which leads to infection, loss of teeth, pain and discomfort.

Benefits of the Year One Dental Visit

Visiting a pediatric dentist by the time the first baby tooth appears is the first step toward smart preventive care.

For one thing, a pediatric dentist can detect early tooth decay and provide parents with important information on oral care and facial development.

For another, the year one dental visit can actually save parents money.

A recent study showed that children who visit a dentist before age one have 40 percent lower dental costs in their first five years compared to those who don’t.

In other words, when parents wait until the age of two or three before a child’s first visit, the child is much more likely to need costly treatments and emergency visits.

Dental Care at Home During Year One

Good habits start early.

Even before baby teeth appear, infants need proper oral care and fluoride supplements to help developing teeth grow strong and avoid early childhood cavities.

— Parents should clean infant mouths and gums regularly with a soft baby toothbrush or cloth and water.

— Children older than six months need fluoride supplements if their drinking water does not contain enough fluoride. Fluoride has been shown to reduce tooth decay by as much as 50 percent.

— Infants should be encouraged to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday — and be weaned from the bottle by 12-14 months of age.

— Baby teeth should be brushed at least twice a day with an aged-appropriate sized toothbrush using a “smear” of fluoridated toothpaste.

If you have any questions about your children’s oral health, always consult your pediatric dentist.