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First dental visit by age one ...Saving the smiles of the next generation

Published:Monday | October 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Dr Erica Gordon-Veitch, Paediatric Dentist

How important is your baby's first smile and what can be done to preserve it? Many still believe that primary or 'baby teeth' are temporary and will soon grow back. Baby teeth last longer than most people think! The first tooth, usually the lower incisor, is not lost until age five. Some primary molars must function well into the eighth grade. Primary teeth are needed for chewing, speech, jaw development, and aesthetics. With decayed teeth, children avoid smiling and are teased at school. Toothache also leads to sleepless nights and affects academic performance.


Early prevention is important as decay can begin as soon as teeth erupt between ages four and six months. Caregivers usually notice a chalky white mark on the new incisors. If left unchecked, decay develops as brown cavities. Weakened teeth may then fracture; an abscess, 'gum boil', can develop.

The first dental visit generally occurs after a series of sleepless nights or some form of injury. The current recommendation is the age-one dental visit for prevention and early detection of possible dental problems.


Try not to pass on your anxieties about the dentist. Never use the visit as a threat or punishment. Try not to use the word 'hurt'.

The toddler could first watch an older sibling having their dental visit.

The dentist will gently examine your toddler's teeth and may clean them and apply fluoride. Oral hygiene instructions and nutritional counselling will be given.

1. Avoid falling asleep with bottle, breast or sweet liquids. If the

toddler wakes during the night, he should only be given water. Wean by 14 months.

2. Tooth and tongue brushing, especially at nights with 'rice grain' amount toothpaste. Non fluoride paste until the toddler is able to spit and rinse. Begin brushing when the first tooth erupts. No food or drink after brushing.

3. Use of small, soft brush. Change brush every two months.

4. Juices should be low in sugar, check labels when buying. Drinking plain water is encouraged.

5. Avoid excessive snacking and sweets as rewards.


á Dental decay accessed and any other dental anomalies e.g. fused teeth discussed.

á Past injuries evaluated with x rays. Developing permanent teeth could be at risk.

á Oral habits and future orthodontic consultations are discussed

á Routine visits - EVERY SIX MONTHS. More frequent visits, e.g., quarterly may be recommended if decay or injury detected.

á No child should be left behind. Special attention MUST be given to the mentally and physically challenged child.

By spending a few minutes each day to care for your toddlers teeth, you can be certain that your child's smile will get off to a healthy start. A lifetime of smiles begins with the first tooth.

Dr Erica Gordon-Veitch has been a paediatric dental specialist for 25
years and is currently in private practice at Paediatric and Family