When to take baby for first dental visit

How old the child is for that first checkup is important.
How old the child is for that first checkup is important.

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - Rebekah McLaughlin is a pro when it comes to bringing her three children in for a dental visit. Each child will eventually have their own, individual oral health care needs.  This concerned mom knows how important dental checkups can be.

"I hope that I can teach my children how to brush their teeth, how to floss, and I'm thankful for a dentist that teaches them how to do that so that we can catch issues before they get bigger," McLaughlin said.

How old the child is for that first checkup is also important, according to pediatric dentist, Dr. Marc Masterson.

"The American Academy about 10 years ago launched the biggest campaign for a first visit that they ever have," he said, "and the campaign was called Dental Home by Age One."

This can be very early, depending on when the child's teeth actually come in.

"The average age is probably within 6 to 9 months, seeing the first bud come through the gums there," Masterson added.

Why so early?  That visit will be a learning experience for both child and parent, and there are a lot of things parents need to know when it comes to oral health care.

"Another factor for children one to three is they're sometimes prone to traumatic injuries as they are learning to walk and learning to run," said Masterson.

Maintenance on gums will start before the teeth even come in.

"Until they actually have teeth, usually wiping with a cloth, usually at bath time, is very acceptable," he said.

He said to introduce a tooth brush between 12 and 24 months. Until they learn to spit, choose a brand without fluoride - and forget that bedtime bottle.

"That's probably the most important thing we're going to relay to any parent on their first visit. The number one source of all tooth decay for ages 3 and under is called nocturnal or overnight feeding. This is children who will take a bottle to bed," emphasized Masterson.

Easy lessons for parents, so trips to the dentist will be checkups rather than problem solving visits.

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