When Should My Child Visit the Dentists for the First Time?

oral health

Many parents wonder when their children should start having regular dental visits. The answer may surprise you.  The guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association is that children should see a dental professional six months after their first tooth is visible or on their first birthday. By starting dental visits when a child is younger than four years of age, they can prevent problems such as decay. The visit is an important first step to putting them on the road to good oral health care.

The First Visit

The first visit accomplishes several goals. First, and perhaps foremost, it acquaints your child with the dentist, their tools and lets them explore the experience of the chair. This helps them to build confidence and become comfortable with the process. Then the dentist will take a look at how your child’s teeth are developing and identify any signs of decay. During the examination, the dentist will also check your child’s bite and any other issues that may affect speech patterns. Not only will your child become familiar with the office and staff, but they will also learn some of the terms that the dentist uses. This is also a good time to ask questions if you have any.

Frequency of Dental Visits

Following the initial visit, it is recommended that children visit the dentist every six months.  This is unless they have a condition that requires more frequent visits to correct an issue such as mouth breathing or teeth grinding. In subsequent visits, the dentist may add additional steps such as polishing the teeth or adding in fluoride.

Keeping Your Child Comfortable

If your child is experiencing some anxiety at the dental office, you may hold their hand while they are being examined. As a child becomes older, it’s a good idea to step away during the exam so that the child gets to know the dentist and develop their confidence. When they reach three years old, they will be having full dental exams. By the age of five years old, the dentist will begin taking dental x rays if the child is comfortable with the process.

Pediatricians and Oral Health

While your child’s pediatrician will address some oral health issues, this is not a substitute for a dental exam by a dentist. They are able to provide a basic assessment but not an in-depth exam that a dentist can provide. If you don’t have a pediatric dentist, your pediatrician is a good resource. A good pediatric dentist can help prevent future problems by providing preventive services that reduce the risk of tartar and decay, for instance.

Building Home Care Routines

Starting to build good dental habits early can prevent decay and discoloration in the future. When the first tooth emerges, regular brushing should begin. Start with a rice-sized portion of toothpaste at six months of age. As the child grows up, they can begin using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. The important goal is to build the routine of daily brushing and regular dentist office visits. This will reduce any anxiety they may have and impress the importance of oral health. Another recommendation is to not let them fall asleep with a bottle as this can produce the bacteria that causes cavities.

Regular Dental Visits

As your child visits the dentist a few times, their anxiety level will reduce. If they still have problems, they can be allowed to sit in your lap during the exam. Many children, however, find out that they enjoy the little treats that the dentist gives them such as stickers or toys. This little reward can take some stress out of the visit. When you are looking for a Huntsville dentist, there are several resources available to you. Start your child on the road to a life of good oral hygiene!

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