The Importance of Having a Dental Home – and Why Every Baby Should See a Dentist “By Age 1”

New parents often wonder when their child should first see a dentist. The short answer is their first visit should be by their first birthday. That’s the view of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry — and pediatricians agree. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children are at risk of early childhood cavities, 1and should visit a pediatric dentist by age 1. The idea of such early dental visits is still surprising to many new parents. However, national studies have shown that preschool-aged children are getting more cavities. More than 1 in 4 children in the United States will have at least one cavity by the age 4. Many kids get cavities as early as age 2. To prevent early childhood cavities, parents first have to find out their child’s risk of developing cavities. In order to show parents how to achieve optimum oral health for their children, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry(AAPD) has established the concept of a Dental Home which is the ongoing relationship between the dentist who is the Primary Dental Care Provider and the patient, and includes comprehensive oral health care, beginning no later than age one. We look at the importance of establishing a Dental Home for your child and getting them in for their “by age 1” visit.

What is a Dental Home?

We all want our children to enjoy a healthy childhood. Sadly, too many children are suffering from needless tooth decay and subsequent dental pain because they do not have a Dental Home. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Dental Association (ADA) support the concept of a “Dental Home,” which is the ongoing relationship between the dentist who is the Primary Dental Care Provider and the patient, and includes comprehensive oral health care, beginning no later than age one. Establishing a Dental Home means that a child’s oral health care is managed in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated and family centered way by a licensed dentist. The concept of the Dental Home reflects the best principles for the proper delivery of oral health care to all, with an emphasis on initiating preventive strategies during infancy. An infant oral health exam is simple, easy and effective. The Dental Home enhances the dental professional’s ability to provide optimal oral health care, beginning with the age one dental visit for successful preventive care and treatment as part of an overall oral health care foundation for life. Additionally, the establishment of the Dental Home assures appropriate referral to dental specialists when care cannot directly be provided within the Dental Home.Establishing a Dental Home early is very important, that is why it is suggested that you bring your toddler in right after their first tooth emerges. That way, the dentist can craft a dental plan that will help them earn a healthy smile that lasts for life.

What is the “By Age 1” visit?

Part of establishing a Dental Home is making sure you bring your baby in before they turn one. The purpose of the “by age 1“dental visit is to learn about your child’s oral health and how to best care for your child’s unique needs before any problems occur. Many dental problems can be prevented or more easily treated in the early stages. It’s important to find a dentist you trust and an office where you feel comfortable. At this first visit, you will get your questions answered and start to build a relationship.

The best way to prepare for this visit is to consider what you want to know, what you want to look for and what you should expect. Be prepared to ask about any concerns you may have and to look for an office that is:

  • Child and parent friendly
  • Knowledgeable about young children’s oral health, growth and development
  • Responsive to you
  • Gentle and kind toward your child even if your child creates a fuss when the dentist or hygienist looks in your child’s mouth
  • Focused on your child’s specific needs
  • Specific about advice on how to care for your child’s mouth and teeth and willing to show you how to do it

The right office for you and your child will also:

  • Tell you how to reach the office in case of an accident or dental emergency
  • Give specific advice about regular follow-up care
  • Tell you about what will happen next in your child’s oral development

Your child may fuss during parts or all of the dental visit. However, parents may be surprised at how accepting infants can be when the dentist examines them. They may enjoy the attention and novelty of the visit. Bring an extra diaper and snack for your child. Also bring a favorite toy, blanket or other familiar object. This will help your child to know that the dental office is a comfortable and safe place. To save time and make the first visit easier, ask the dental office to mail you all the forms you will need to fill out. The forms may offer the chance to list questions or concerns that you want to discuss at the visit.

What should I expect at this “By Age 1” visit?

The age 1 care visit is similar to a well-baby check at the physician’s office. At the visit, you should expect the dentist or hygienist to:

  • Review your child’s history
  • Respond to your questions and concerns
  • Talk with you about your child’s overall oral health, including:
    • Development
    • Teething
    • Bite (how your child’s teeth will come together)
    • Soft tissues such as gums and cheeks
    • Oral habits such as sucking
    • Factors that affect the risk of cavities, such as diet, hygiene practices, fluoride use and whether others in the family have had cavities
    • How to prevent trauma to your child’s mouth
  • Thoroughly examine your child’s mouth in the knee-to-knee position. You and the dentist sit on chairs facing each other. Your child sits on your lap, facing you. You then lay your child back with his or her head in the dentist’s lap. In this position, both you and dentist can see clearly into your child’s mouth and your child can look up at you. In this position the dentist can count the teeth, see the gums, and clean the teeth as needed. A coating of fluoride varnish will then be painted on the teeth to strengthen them, as well as help prevent cavities.
  • Show how to clean your child’s teeth and give you a chance to practice
  • Give specific advice about home care, including hygiene, diet and use of toothpaste and other fluorides
  • Tell you what to expect as your child grows and develops in the coming months while suggesting a schedule for follow-up care.

By the end of your visit, you should have a good understanding of what you and the dentist can do together to make sure your child has excellent oral health.

Dr. Michael Foley understands the importance of having a Dental Home and the “By Age 1” exams and that is why Winning Smiles Pediatric Dentistry is offering free “By Age 1” exam. Please call us today at 716-332-2444 to find out more.