Get ready for your child’s first dental visit

If you were planning on taking your child to the dentist only after the start of preschool or kindergarten, you’ll be several years too late. You should actually take your children to the dentist for the first time when they’re still in diapers.

Cavities can begin developing as soon as a child’s first tooth emerges, which for some babies can be as early as 6 months old. Schedule your child’s first trip to the dentist when those first teeth come in or by the time the child reaches 1 year old — whichever occurs first, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Here’s what happens during this office visit and how you can start your child on a lifetime of good dental habits.

What to expect at the first visit

The dentist will probably start by examining your little one’s teeth and gums for any early signs of decay. They’ll also look for any problems with your baby’s head, neck, skin, jaws and the soft tissues in and around the mouth. This includes an assessment of your child’s bite, facial growth and development.

You may also learn about the different brushing and flossing techniques you can use to help you care for your baby’s teeth. Your dentist can also provide recommendations on feeding and snacking practices to keep your child’s smile healthy.

During your first visit, be sure to share any relevant information about your child’s health and development with the dentist. This may include medical conditions, medications and any oral problems your child has experienced.

Tips for taking care of baby teeth

In between visits to the dentist, you can start your own care routine for your child’s teeth and gums:

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    Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.

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    Use a tiny rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste from the time the first tooth comes in until age 3. From the ages of 3 to 6, use a small pea-sized amount.

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    When your baby has two or more teeth next to each other, it’s time to start flossing.

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    Avoid filling your child’s bottle or sippy cup with fruit juice. Juice contains sugar and acid, which can contribute to tooth decay. Opt for water instead.

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    Wean your child off a pacifier or thumb sucking before age 3 to keep baby teeth in the proper position.

Delta Dental plans cover routine checkups and cleanings at low or no out-of-pocket cost, so get your child on your plan right away. You can also find an in-network dentist easily using our Find a Dentist tool, which allows you to search by your location, plan type and dentist specialty, including pediatric dentists.

By showing your children how to care for their teeth properly, they’ll develop important habits — and keep those smiles for years to come.