The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) advises parents to make biannual dental appointments for children, beginning approximately six months after the first tooth emerges.
These two important yearly visits allow the pediatric dentist to monitor new developments in the child’s mouth, evaluate changes in the condition of teeth and gums, and continue to advise parents on good oral care strategies.
The pediatric dentist may schedule additional visits for children who are particularly susceptible to tooth decay or who show early signs of orthodontic problems.
What is the purpose of dental checkups?
First, the pediatric dentist aims to provide a good dental home for the child. If a dental emergency does arise, parents can take the child for treatment at a familiar, comfortable location.
Second, the pediatric dentist keeps meticulous records of the child’s ongoing dental health and jaw development. In general, painful dental conditions do not arise overnight. If the pediatric dentist understands the child’s dental health history, it becomes easier to anticipate future issues and intervene before they arise.
Third, the pediatric dentist is able to educate parents and children during the visit. Sometimes the pediatric dentist wants to introduce one or several factors to enhance tooth health – for example, sealants, fluoride supplements, or xylitol. Other times, the pediatric dentist asks parents to change the child’s dietary or oral behavior – for example, reducing sugar in the child’s diet, removing an intraoral piercing, or even transitioning the child from sippy cups to adult-sized drinking glasses.
Finally, dental X-rays are often the only way to identify tiny cavities in primary (baby) teeth. Though the child may not be feeling any pain, left unchecked, these tiny cavities can rapidly turn into large cavities, tooth decay, and eventually, childhood periodontal disease. Dental X-rays are only used when the pediatric dentist suspects cavities or orthodontic irregularities.