The foundation for proper dental health starts when teeth are developing as a fetus is forming in the womb. Because of this process, mothers need to support a healthy lifestyle during their pregnancies. This sets the stage for a child’s teeth to form fully when they begin to come in. Pediatric teeth, or “baby teeth,” start to erupt in the child’s mouth at around six months of age, with the lower incisors typically being the first to come in. At this stage, educating a parent on how to care for their child’s teeth is crucial. I generally like to bring new mothers into my office, with their child, at the first signs of teeth coming in to offer them tips on caring for their child’s teeth.
Many parents ask at what age a child should first visit the dentist for a full examination and cleaning. This is a difficult question to answer because there is a wide range in children’s rate of growth and development, and not every child is in the same stage at exactly the same age. In general, a child needs to see a dentist by their second birthday, but problems could arise before that and if not addressed promptly they may cause serious complications by the time a dentist sees the patient and diagnoses them. I usually recommend the parents to bring the child in as soon as the baby teeth erupt.
There are situations when a very early visit to the dentist is unavoidable. One mother came to see me with her two-week-old newborn, who was born with lower incisors already protruding through the gums. The teeth were not yet fully formed and set in the bone, but they were causing the infant pain while nursing and were incredibly painful to the mother when she tried to breastfeed. For this reason, I extracted the child’s incisors when he was only two weeks old. This isn’t a typical case, but I have treated a number of children at a very young age for a variety of reasons. It’s never too early to take your child to the dentist; waiting too long may spur complicated problems. I urge parents to bring their children in as soon as it seems necessary, especially if the child seems to have any pain or if they notice problems within the mouth. Seeing a child and treating their teeth as early as possible helps ensure the overall health of a child.