When many of us were growing up, a first trip to the dentist in preschool or early elementary school was just fine. But the more we learn about the importance of baby teeth, the more we understand why getting kids to the dentist at an earlier age is essential. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first dental appointment by age 1– or six months after their first baby tooth comes in. Taking your infant or toddler to the dentist allows for early screening for potential problems. It also serves the valuable purpose of getting your child comfortable in the dentist’s chair, building a sense of trust that can last a lifetime.
Why Are Baby Teeth Important?
In the past, keeping baby teeth healthy wasn’t a focus since they will eventually fall out. But over the years, we’ve learned that baby teeth play a significant role in children’s development and overall health.
- Baby teeth play a role in speech development.
- They save space and pave the way for permanent teeth to come in.
- They help with chewing and early nutrition.
- Decay in baby teeth has become a public health concern in recent years because of diet and extended use of sippy cups. Tooth decay can already be a big problem by preschool age, so it’s vital to get children screened early.
What Should I Expect At My Child’s First Dental Appointment?
Early dental appointments are usually short and sweet, focusing on screening and establishing a level of comfort at the dentist’s office.
- Schedule the appointment at a time of day when your child is usually awake and alert instead of interrupting naptime.
- The ADA recommends giving your child a light meal and brushing teeth before the appointment, and saving snacks for after the visit.
- Your dentist will do a basic screening to make sure the jaw and teeth are developing correctly.
- The visit should only last around 30 minutes.
- Your baby or toddler can sit in your lap during the exam.
- Your dentist will give your child’s teeth a gentle cleaning and give you tips for home care.
- Most young children don’t require X-rays during a routine checkup.
- Your dentist may recommend a protective fluoride varnish.
- If you have concerns about thumb-sucking or pacifier use, you can start a conversation with your dentist at your child’s first visit.
How Often Should My Child See The Dentist?
Children, like adults, should have a routine dental visit every six months. If your child is at high risk for tooth decay or you have concerns about oral development issues, your dentist may recommend coming every three months.
How Can I Prepare My Young Child For Dental Visits?
With toddlers and preschoolers, doing some prep work before seeing the dentist can mean a more successful visit. When your child knows what to expect, it can make the checkup go more smoothly. Here are some tips for making those first visits positive for your little one:
- Find children’s books at your local library or watch programming designed for young children about going to the dentist.
- The ADA recommends doing fun practice sessions with your child, practicing opening your mouth and saying aaaaah.
- Describe your own dental experiences positively. You can even talk with your dentist about bringing your child to one of your routine checkups so they can see what it’s like for mom and dad.
- Create a sense of excitement about seeing the dentist in the days leading up to the appointment.
Building A Trusting Relationship With Your Child’s Dentist
Starting dental visits at a young age builds a sense of familiarity and trust between your child and their dentist. An early start can help eliminate the fear factor and create a positive relationship from the outset. The dentist becomes someone they’re used to instead of someone to be afraid of. It can help to choose a pediatric dental office designed with children in mind. Noble Pediatric Dental has created a welcoming environment to reduce intimidation and make children comfortable–from infancy through the teen years. Building trust begins at that very first visit on mom or dad’s lap. And the confidence it creates can pave the way for a lifetime of excellent oral health habits.