Why your child needs to see a dentist at 12 months of age
Why your child needs to see a dentist at 12 months of age
Kids are all different – that much is obvious. Some are poor sleepers who need milk to resettle at night. Some have a hard-wired sweet tooth. And others scream down the house when you try to brush their teeth. What’s not so obvious is how these traits impact their dental health – and consequently, when they need to start seeing a dentist.
The low-down on kid’s dental decay
Without being dramatic, the effects of poor oral health in childhood can be felt for a lifetime.
According to the Australian Dental Association, children’s tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. It’s also responsible for the most hospital admissions for any preventable disease in children aged 5-9.
That’s because early decay can begin right from when the first tooth comes through.
It’s often not until your child gets a little older (5-9 years) that decay which started at 12 months can reach crisis point.
That’s why the importance of seeing a dentist to prevent childhood cavities cannot be underestimated. It also helps lay the foundations for optimal, lifelong oral health.
‘But my child only has a few teeth. How can they have dental decay?’
Dental decay is caused by a whole host of factors – some more expected than others.
- Carbohydrates: Consuming carbohydrates frequently or on-demand (especially through the night) once a child has passed 12-14 months can increase the risk of dental decay. This includes breast milk, baby formula and cow’s milk – along with the usual suspects like juice and cordial.
- Brushing habits: When your child’s first tooth appears, you must start brushing. From 18 months, you should also introduce a fluoride toothpaste. Your paediatric dentist can help determine which one is most appropriate for your little one.
- Grazing: Failing to leave at least two hours between meals (grazing) can contribute to dental decay. Paired with the fact that so many foods contain hidden sugars – and that toddlers do need to eat frequently – it can be hard to strike the right balance.
- Other underlying conditions: Chalky molars and poor-quality teeth can increase the likelihood of dental decay in your child.
The good news? Dental decay is mostly preventable.
Armed with the right information and habits in place – starting from the appearance of your child’s first tooth – we can considerably lower their risk of developing dental decay.
However, only if the risk factors are picked up early. And to do so, your child should see a paediatric dentist by 12 months of age. But if they haven’t? Fear not – we’re happy to see your child at any time. Late is better than never.
All preventative care can protect your child’s smile – now and in the future.
So your child has just turned one, what should you expect?
We recommend your child visits a paediatric dentist within six months of developing their first tooth. This will typically occur around the time of their first birthday.
During the check-up, we’ll make sure their gums are healthy and that their teeth are coming through in the right order. We’ll also answer any questions you have relating to teething, dummies and thumb-sucking – as well as some common queries, including:
- How to brush and floss your child’s teeth
- The best toothpaste for your child
- Healthy first foods
- Healthy eating patterns
- The foods and drinks most likely to cause rapid tooth decay
Your child doesn’t even need to sit in the dental chair. They can lay on your lap while we have a look in their mouth.
And the best bit? Your child learns that the dentist can be fun. They get familiar with the staff, play with the toys, and take home a prize at the end for being a good helper.
A hidden benefit of an early check-up: your go-to in case of an emergency
Toddlers and children like to play rough. So it’s no surprise that about 1 in 3 children will have an accident that involves trauma to their teeth or gums.
This is why it’s so important to have a familiar place to call if there is an emergency.
If your child visited us at 12 months, we already have their records on hand. And our clinic is staffed by the same smiling faces your child has met before – which goes a long way in calming them if they’re distressed from their mishap.
As a parent, it’s a great comfort knowing there’s a familiar place to take your child. After all, you don’t want your child’s first visit to the dentist to be an emergency situation.
Give yourself peace of mind
If you’re still sceptical about the 12-month check-up, let us put your mind at ease.
We often hear parents say that their child only has a few teeth – so what’s the point in seeing a dentist so soon? But as already mentioned, decay can begin from the very first tooth. So it’s best to nip any issues in the bud.
There’s also no need to worry about whether they’re old enough or cooperative enough to handle us looking at their teeth. As paediatric specialists, we know all the tricks to help them feel comfortable and relaxed.
We’ll go at a pace that works for your child. This may mean holding off for a bit to let them play or introducing grownup-like aspects of the check-up more slowly (e.g. brushing their teeth with a normal brush, rather than our motorised handpiece brushes).
We’ll also provide a customised action plan to help ensure your child’s optimum oral health. This might include visitation frequency, type and strength of toothpaste, when to ditch the dummy – and how to manage thumb-sucking.
And because dental health is critical to your little one’s overall health, we can organise referrals to other medical and allied health professionals if needed.
The 12-month visit is a lifetime investment in your child’s dental health. As your partner in children’s oral health and hygiene, our aim is to have our young patients start off this process as positively as possible. This will encourage them to maintain proper hygiene throughout their life!
So start your child on a lifetime of good dental habits – now.