The recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists is between 6-12 months of age so basically by the first birthday.
The purpose of the first visit is to establish a dental home where routine exams and preventive care will protect your child’s smile!
The next question is probably “Why so young?”
The biggest problem we see and worry about as a dentist is “baby-bottle tooth decay.” or nursing decay.
Once your child starts adding items to their diet other than breast milk, teeth are susceptible to cavities.
This brings up the discussion of breast-feeding and what is called “at-will” breast-feeding. Once the teeth erupt and you add other food and drink items, you need to stop “at-will” feeding because small amounts of food/drink greatly increases the risk for cavities.
Absolutely DO NOT let your child fall asleep with a bottle containing anything other then water or they will get cavities.
When & how to start cleaning your child’s teeth?
Believe it or not you need to start cleaning your child’s mouth from the start. I recommend that after feedings you should use a soft, clean, wet cloth and just rub it on the front ridges of the upper and lower jaws where the teeth are going to come in. DO NOT go to the back of the mouth!!!! There are a lot of small things back there that you could damage.
What you are doing is cleaning off some of the bacteria and carbohydrates but also training your child that you will be taking care of their oral health and in getting their teeth “cleaned.”
You can expect a bit of uncooperative behavior but if you start early it will make your life easier as they get bigger.
Once the teeth pop through, start brushing twice a day with a soft brush, child/infant size you can find at most supermarkets or at your dentist’s office. Just smear a very thin layer of fluoridated toothpaste on the brush. There are a few “kid’s” toothpastes on the market.
Once your child reaches 2 years of age you can start to use a small “pea-sized” amount of toothpaste.
By the way, you have to brush your child’s teeth until they are 7 or 8 years of age. You need to teach them how to do it and let them do their best but you have to follow-up by flossing and brushing their teeth. (I hope you noticed & wrote FLOSS!)
Establish this habit in the early years and you will gift your child the chance for good dental health their whole life!