Does pediatric dental care really matter? After all, kids are just going to lose their baby teeth anyway. Shouldn’t parents just save money on visits to the dentist and dental insurance coverage and wait to start their children on a dental care plan until permanent teeth have come in?
These questions are among the ones most frequently posed by new parents, expecting parents or adults interested in becoming parents. They understand that dental care is important, but they don’t quite grasp the importance of pediatric dentistry—or, more generally, the importance of baby teeth. As a result, people ask these questions to try to confirm their beliefs that pediatric dentistry is a luxury rather than something essential.
The truth, though, is that pediatric dental care is as crucial as dental care for any other age group. In fact, it is arguably more crucial to take your kids to the dentist regularly when they are young than it will be later in life.
Why Pediatric Dental Care Matters
So why does pediatric dental care matter? There are several reasons, but let’s start with one often plagued by misconception: the amount of time that children actuallyhave their baby teeth. Some parents take the aforementioned blasé attitude toward pediatric dentistry because baby teeth are, by definition, temporary. They’re only there for a few years, so there isn’t much point in spending time (or money) caring for them.
This attitude mistakes the actual lifespan of baby teeth. In most children, the first baby teeth start erupting at some point in the 6 to 12-month period. The last baby teeth usually come in after about two and a half years. Most kids, meanwhile, don’t lose their last baby teeth until they are 10, 11, or 12. In other words, your child could end up having his or her baby teeth for a decade or longer. Considering the fact that decay can start the moment the first tooth erupts, protecting those teeth and making sure they last is pivotal.
Baby teeth are also important to a child’s growth and development. As soon as a child’s baby teeth come in, they start learning to use them to chew and eat naturally. As children grow older—and also grow more teeth—they use them to form words and speak clearly. Decay or damage to the baby teeth can impede these processes and affect growth and development in serious and far-reaching ways.
In addition, baby teeth are essentially the trailblazers of dental health. They form the eruption path that adult teeth will follow later. Neither working with a pediatric dentist to manage your child’s dental health nor taking steps at home to keep their teeth healthy can lead to crooked or damaging eruption paths for adult teeth. These issues can usually be fixed with orthodontic care, but orthodontics is expensive—and unlike pediatric dentistry, often is classified as a luxury by low or middle-income families. In other words, investing in pediatric dental care now might save you a lot of money in orthodontic care later, simply by creating an optimal path for your child’s adult teeth to follow.
When to Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Appointment
So when should you schedule your child’s first dental appointment? Most experts recommend that the first visit to the dentist take place roughly six months after the eruption of the first tooth. A dentist will inspect your child’s teeth to make sure they are healthy and will give you tips on establishing smart home routines for dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing a child’s teeth can be somewhat difficult, so this coaching can actually prove to be just as valuable as anything the dentist does during that first appointment.
If your child’s first tooth has recently erupted, then it’s time to start looking around your area for a dentist that practices pediatric dental care. There are general dentists out there that offer care for patients of all ages. However, working with a true pediatric dental specialist will ensure that your child gets the best care possible from the most well-qualified source. When in doubt, call around to dental offices in your area and ask about their experience and qualifications in the pediatric dentistry realm.