First Dental Exam by Age 1, Because "Baby Teeth Matter"

A lifetime of healthy, pain-free smiles begins with a dental exam around a child’s first birthday.

That’s according to the American Dental Association and one of its constituent societies, the Wisconsin Dental Association, which recently kicked off its new “Baby Teeth Matter” campaign.

“The WDA wants parents to know the first dental visit is as important a milestone in a baby’s first year as the first hug, first smile and first step,” said Dr. Timothy Durtsche, Wisconsin Dental Association president. “This is the perfect time to promote the relatively simple, painless and inexpensive infant oral health exam as an important ‘first’ in a young child’s life.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports cavities in children ages 2-5 have increased 14 percent in the last decade. Tooth decay, a preventable disease, is five times more prevalent than asthma in American children.

However, a February 2005 Children’s Dental Health Project report found 5-year-olds who had their first dental visit at age 1 incurred oral health-related costs at a rate about one-half that of their peers who didn’t see a dentist until age 5.

The ADA calls a dental visit at an early age a “well-baby checkup” for the teeth. Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can show parents how to clean the child’s teeth properly and how to evaluate any adverse habits such as thumbsucking.

Contrary to popular thinking, a child’s primary teeth, sometimes called “baby teeth,” are as important as the permanent adult teeth. Primary teeth typically begin to appear when a baby is between age six months and one year of age. Primary teeth help children chew and speak. They also hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.

“Early examination and identification of high-risk children by a dentist followed by appropriate intervention, such as fluoride varnish, treatment of small cavities or referral to a specialist, combined with education of parents and caregivers can prevent dental disease and significantly reduce the long-term costs and pain associated with undiagnosed decay,” said Dr. Durtsche.

The WDA will use public awareness TV spots, press releases, website content, social media posts and patient education materials throughout 2013 to drive home the fact that an infant oral health exam by age 1 helps prevent early childhood dental disease and its negative impact on physical, social and emotional development.

Parents and caregivers are invited to post comments about the “Baby Teeth Matter” public awareness campaign or ask questions about children’s dental health on the WDA Facebook wall. Use the special #babyteethmatter hashtag when sending tweets on Twitter to connect quickly with more tips to help keep young smiles healthy.

“Good personal daily oral hygiene, appropriate use of fluoride, properly placed sealants, routine professional dental exams and early restorative care help prevent dental disease,” Dr. Durtsche added. “This saves patients of all ages from infection, pain and the need for more advanced and expensive treatment.”

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.