Dental Care 101

By Nancy Gottesman

Let’s start with the big question: At what age should your child first see a dentist? Ask any number of parents and you’ll likely get an array of responses: “Younger than age 2, it makes no sense!” “Age 3, of course; most of their teeth are in!” “I took my son when he was 4 and he had no cavities!”

Children’s dental experts beg to differ, however. “The initial visit should be within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, usually around the child’s first birthday,” explains Jack E. Thomas, Jr., D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “As soon as a tooth comes in, the bacteria in the mouth change and decay can begin.”

By the time they reach kindergarten, more than 40 percent of American children have tooth decay, which can be advanced even by age 3. Exams every six months will protect your toddler’s beautiful smile now, and help prevent the decay that can lead to malocclusion, the improper positioning of the teeth and jaw, which can affect your child’s future bite, gum tissue health, speech development and appearance.