No one is born a parent. Every milestone is a mystery, and every month or year seems to come with its own set of questions. When should my baby start walking? When should she say her first word? When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?
That last one is more important than many people realize. Maintaining your child’s oral health is a key component in maintaining her overall health. To make sure she gets started on the right foot, you’ll need to know:
- When to take your child to the dentist for the first time
- What to expect during your child’s first dentist appointment
- Tips for preparing your child for their first dentist visit
Being prepared for your child’s first dentist appointment isn’t just about less fussy visits in the future. It’s about setting her up for a lifetime of good oral health!
When to Take Your Child to the Dentist for the First Time
Plan to schedule your child’s first dental appointment once her first tooth comes in or before her first birthday, whichever comes first. Either option ensures that she will see her dentist sometime between the ages of 6 and 12 months. Your dentist will take the time to examine her incoming teeth as well as other aspects of her oral development.
Don’t feel alarmed if this seems too early. Dentists used to recommend that a child’s first dental appointment should be between one and two years old, or within six months of getting her first tooth. One study actually found that one out of every six parents believed that it was okay to wait until their child was four years old or older before their first visit!
Think of your child’s first dental appointment as preventative instead of diagnostic. Dental disease is the most common chronic disease experienced by children, and problems such as tooth decay can begin much earlier than four years old.
What to Expect During Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment
The purpose of the first dental visit is to assess your child’s oral development. We will examine her jaw, gums, and teeth to make sure everything is developing correctly. We’ll also check for cavities, mouth injuries, or any other issues that may need to be addressed. Finally, your dentist or a hygienist will clean her teeth with a wet cloth or toothbrush.
Your child’s developing oral health is your dentist’s top concern. Your dentist will want to discuss your child’s:
- Eating and drinking habits
- Fluoride intake
- Risk of tooth decay
- Usage of pacifiers or thumb-sucking
Most children don’t require X-rays until the first molars come in at about age 6. However, your dentist may recommend doing so in order to assess your child’s risk of tooth decay, of baby teeth affecting future adult teeth, or another concern that is present. They’ll be sure to recommend any preventative treatments if necessary.
Like adult patients, your dentist will want to schedule another appointment in six months. Some may even recommend bringing your child in every three months for a checkup. This can actually be beneficial since it can help your child not be afraid of going to the dentist. She’ll learn what to expect, as well as get more instructions on how to maintain her oral health.
How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Dentist Visit
Going to the dentist can be a stressful ordeal at any age. That’s why it’s so important to lay a good foundation for your child as soon as possible. By starting her early and going regularly, your child won’t be afraid to visit the dentist. As an added bonus, she will develop good dental habits that prevent her from having problems in the future.
Here are some important tips on helping your child enjoy her first trip to the dentist:
- Avoid scheduling the appointment during naptime. Instead, schedule the appointment for when your child has had plenty of rest so she will be more cooperative.
- Feed your child a light meal and clean her teeth before seeing the dentist. This way she won’t be hungry or fussy during the exam.
- Let your child know that the dentist’s office is a fun place to visit. Use positive language and an upbeat tone when talking about the dentist, as well as in the office and exam room. Do the same during the exam to encourage her to cooperate.
- Do something fun after the exam as a reward for doing a good job, such as going to the park.
One of the biggest challenges for children is boredom. That’s why we added TVs to every chair in our office with access to Netflix. This way, she can be entertained by her favorite shows while waiting for her turn to see Dr. Mullins.
Don’t feel bad if your child still isn’t in a good mood during her first dental exam. Good dentists with pediatric experience have seen it all, so they won’t be thrown off by a fussy child. What’s important here is that you do everything you can to make sure your child isn’t afraid to come back for her next visit.
Remember that dentists recommend you bring your child in once her first tooth comes in or before her first birthday, whichever comes first. Know what to expect so you’ll be prepared to get her oral health started on the right foot.