Although oral health is important at every stage of life, it is particularly important to establish proper oral habits in children that will serve as an ongoing investment in their health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cavities and untreated dental decay are the most common diseases affecting children, outpacing even asthma and hay fever. It is recommended that children start seeing a dentist as early as one year of age.
In addition to checking a child’s tooth development, early visits allow the dentist to check for signs of oral cancer or gum disease. There is also a correlation between caries (another name for cavities) in baby teeth and subsequent development of caries in the permanent teeth.
Your child’s dentist will make sure that your child’s primary teeth are coming in properly. These teeth, which precede the permanent teeth, start erupting as early as six months of age. While they do eventually fall out, primary teeth are important for developing chewing skills and learning to speak properly. The primary teeth also serve as markers for the proper alignment of the permanent teeth so it’s critical that they remain healthy throughout a child’s development.
Your child will start developing his or her permanent teeth starting from about the age of 6. The dentist will want to ensure proper spacing and gum health as these teeth come in. He will likely discuss your child’s diet with you, as this is an important component of tooth enamel development. Since the permanent teeth will be with your child for a lifetime, it is particularly important that good oral health habits are established at an early age.
What You Can Do
One of the most important things you can do for your child’s oral health is to model good oral health behaviors. Establish and follow good habits yourself, such as brushing and flossing daily and visiting the dentist regularly, and emphasize the importance to your child. Children are great imitators. If you model with enthusiasm the good habits you want your child to adopt, your child is much more likely to copy what you are doing.