Among the many things on your list to prepare for a baby, it’s never too early to start thinking about caring for their dental needs.

According to the Academy of Pediatrics, your child’s first dental visit should be scheduled by your child’s first birthday or first tooth, whichever comes first. Your child’s dentist will check your baby’s gums, teeth and bite to make sure everything is developing well and catch any dental issues before they get worse. They can spot early signs of cavities, gum inflammation and misaligned teeth. They can also recommend preventive services such as cleanings and fluoride treatments. Plus, you can also ask the dentist for advice about brushing, flossing and more.

Avoid Infant Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is a serious disease that can cause infection in other parts of the body. What’s more, children who have had tooth decay are more likely to have dental problems as teenagers and adults.

Are you familiar with baby bottle tooth decay or baby bottle rot? This is a dental condition that often occurs when a young child naps or goes to bed at night with a bottle filled with a sugary liquid, such as milk or juice. This creates a significant amount of tooth decay in a child’s teeth.

When bacteria on the teeth come into contact with sugar from the liquids, the bacteria form acids that attack teeth enamel. This causes tooth decay.

Tips for avoiding baby tooth decay:

  • Do not allow your child to go to bed with a bottle filled with anything but water.
  • Wean your child from the bottle between 12 and 14 months of age.
  • Follow the appropriate oral health routine for your child’s age. Wipe your baby’s gums after each feeding. When your child’s first tooth appears, it’s time to begin brushing. Clean and massage gums in areas that remain toothless and begin flossing when all the baby teeth have erupted—usually by age 2 or 2.5.
  • Take your child to the dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth and no later than your child’s first birthday.

When you prevent (or catch) cavities early on, you help ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles for your child.