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Hope and Health

Your source to help with your family's health from WVU Medicine Children's

Hope & Health
Articles and Updates from WVU Medicine Children's

03/1/2024 | Dami Kim, DDS

Is It Time for My Child to See a Dentist?

Congratulations on your journey of parenthood! It is truly a bundle of joy along with many other things about which you may or may not have thought about.

How about a dental visit for your young ones?

We know that teeth are an important part of people’s overall health, but what do we do about those little pearls that will eventually change to adult teeth later?

Here are the questions WVU Dental is asked frequently, and the answers I have for parents about their child’s dental visit.

When do I need to bring my child for the first dental visit?

According to the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, dentists would like to meet your child when the first tooth erupts, which is around six months of age and no later than their first birthday.

Why do you need to see my baby so early when only one tooth has come in?

There are basically three big goals to meet in that visit.

The first one is for you to establish a place for future dental visits. We call this place a “dental home.” This is your go-to place for your child’s overall dental care.
The second goal is to educate you about how to take care of your child from a dental professional’s perspective. This includes learning how to provide home oral care, what and how to feed your child to maintain dental health, and how to prevent oral trauma. Pediatric dentists are trained to provide this “anticipatory guidance” that is individualized and based on your child’s current development.

The third goal is, of course, to examine your child’s current oral and dental conditions. The examinations include not only the teeth, but overall health, growth, and development of the face and mouth.

How are you going to see the mouth when my little one does not open their mouth?

Pediatric dentists are trained to perform these services safely and thoroughly, even for your wiggly little ones. Typically, we ask parents to help with this task just as they would do in your pediatrician’s office. Your active involvement helps all parties. Dentists can properly perform services, your child feels safe around you, and you can feel empowered in the process as a parent.

Do I need to bring my baby every six months for checkup and cleaning?

The length between each visit will be determined by your pediatric dentist. This decision will be based on everything we learn about your child and any concerns you as a parent want to address.

This may change every time we see your child and update the information we gather in each visit. For example, if your dentist found something that requires being seen again in three months, you may bring your child back for the area to be evaluated. Once the problem is resolved, the dentist will change the frequency of the next visit.

I know teeth are important, but the baby teeth will fall out and change to adult teeth.

It is true that the lifespan of baby teeth is short relative to a person’s life. However, even those small teeth can get cavities and cause pain and infection. Some of the baby teeth stay in function much longer than a few years. On average, the last baby molars exfoliate at age of 12. Until then, they are there to chew and hold space for the permanent teeth.

Also, health of baby teeth translates into health of adult teeth. Studies show that children with cavities in baby teeth tend to have a higher chance of getting cavities in adult teeth.

What if I missed that time for the first dental visit and my child is already three years old now?

That’s fine! It’s never too late to start.

Every age group will be provided with age-appropriate guidance in addition to oral and dental evaluations and cleaning.

In diet counseling for children under 12 months of age, parents will be interviewed about the feeding pattern of baby formula, baby foods, and other drinks. They will learn how to prevent cavities from diet.

For toddlers, in addition to types of main meals, patterns and nature about snacking will be discussed and proper modification will be suggested.

My child has special healthcare needs. Can they do exams and cleaning for my child?

Pediatric dentists are specialists to take care of infants, children, and adolescents with or without special healthcare needs in the broadest meaning of the term. We are trained to help patients with any type of behavior. Your child is in the right place with us for oral care!

I don’t have a pediatric dentist near me. Can I bring my baby to my dentist?

General dentists are trained to meet needs of patients in all age ranges and conditions. Statistically, 80 percent of children in the nation are cared for by general dentists because general dentists are more available than pediatric dentists. However, some offices tend to focus more on certain services than others. Even if they do not provide services for infants and toddlers, they may have some pediatric dentists to whom they normally refer patients. Please contact your dentist for more information.

We at WVU Dental hope this answered some of your questions or at least opened some new questions to ask.

For answers to any questions or concerns about your child’s dental visit or oral health, please feel free to contact Pediatric Dentistry at the WVU School of Dentistry.

About the Author

Dami Kim, DDS is a board-certified pediatric dentist at WVU Dental.

Before joining WVU as a full-time faculty, Dr. Kim worked in private practice in New Jersey for more than 10 years and served families from all walks of life.

She is currently a founding program director of a new Pediatric Dental Residency Program at the WVU School of Dentistry that will train dentists to help our pediatric patients in West Virginia.

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