The Importance of Early Pediatric Dental Exams


by Eric Ellis, DMD – Smile Generation®-trusted pediatric specialist at Every Kid’s Dentist® in Phoenix, AZ

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that children have their very first dental visit by age one or as soon as their first tooth appears. The AAPD’s “Get it Done in Year One” campaign promotes the importance of setting up a child’s first-ever dental visit with a pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist is a specialist who has had two additional years of residency training and specializes in the dental treatment and overall oral health of children of all ages – from infants to teenagers and even those with special needs.

Early childhood pediatric dental visits are key to helping your child associate the dentist with a positive and rewarding experience. Early pediatric dental visits are also just the beginning of an effective, lifelong program to prevent decay and cavities. Just think: if your child has only one tooth at the time of his/her first dental visit, and that tooth is properly cleaned, that means zero cavities for the next visit. This cycle continues over and over again into adulthood, assuming adherence to regularly scheduled dental appointments. Regular early pediatric dental visits also serve several critical functions: to foster good nutrition with proper chewing; aid in speech development; and for the proper development of permanent adult teeth.

Most children start growing baby teeth at around 6 months old. Early bloomers can grow baby teeth at around 3 months old, while late bloomers will start around 14 months old. Whatever the case is with your child, remember that baby teeth are just as vulnerable to tooth decay as permanent teeth are. So, the longer you wait for your child to see a dentist, the more likely they are to experience poor oral health and overall health in their future. In fact, recent papers in the journal called Pediatrics show that children who see a pediatric dentist within their first year experience 40 percent lower dental costs in their first five years than children who do not.

Early-age visits to the pediatric dentist will also prepare parents on ways to properly care for their children’s teeth at home and as they grow into stronger, beautiful smiles. Some helpful examples are as follows:

  • Babies and infants should have their mouth cleaned regularly with clean gauze or cloth or a soft-bristled infant tooth brush.
  • Once the primary teeth (baby teeth) start to appear, brush them twice a day with a pea-size amount of fluoridated tooth paste.
  • Never put a child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. The sugar and acids in the liquids can cause something we call “baby bottle tooth decay”.
  • You can start getting your child to drink from a cup by the age of one and remove the bottle by months 18-24.