When Should My Child Have Their First Dental Appointment?By Andrew Michael Buehler, DMD
Being a parent is not easy. There are all kinds of rules and guidelines you need to learn to help ensure the health of your child. But it’s a challenge that you gladly accept because there’s nothing you won’t do for your kid. And that includes their oral/dental health.
Many parents wonder what the right age is for their child or baby to have their first dental checkup, know that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommends that children have their first dentist visit either:
· As soon as their first tooth appears
· By their first birthday
That means that, along with their pediatrician, you should count a dentist as one of your allies in keeping your baby healthy. And there are pediatric dentists and general dentists available to help ease that process.
What Happens at a Child’s First Dentist Visit?
A child’s first dentist visit won’t be much different than an adult’s first trip to a new dentist: The dentist will conduct a thorough exam and learn as much as he/she can about your child’s oral health.
The biggest difference in your child’s first time at the dentist is that you will be providing all or much of the information on behalf of the patient.
Also, your child will likely set a pattern for how they feel about oral health from that first dentist visit, meaning it’s a very important consultation for all involved. That is why you should prep both yourself and your child for that initial dentist visit (more on that later).
You can expect your child’s first dentist appointment to last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. That is because your child’s dentist will perform a full exam of the teeth, jaws, bite, gums, and oral tissues to check growth and development. They may also conduct a gentle cleaning, which may include teeth polishing (if any are visible) and the removal of any plaque, tartar, or stains. Your dentist should also demonstrate to your child how to properly brush and floss.
It is unlikely your dentist will take any X-rays on the initial visit – unless there is already tooth decay present. Otherwise, it is better for children that they do not receive X-rays.
In short, your first trip should be relatively simple but thorough and, above all, enjoyable for your child or baby. And if you search, you’ll likely find one of these super dentists, that make your child’s dental experiences one they’ll never forget — in the best way.
How to Prepare for Your Baby’s First Visit to the Dentist
Children – and parents for that matter – have a wide range of reactions to a first trip to the dentist. But it is crucial that you prepare yourself and your child for their initial exam. This will help make the process more enjoyable and set up a healthy attitude toward dental visits for the rest of their lives.
You don’t want that first visit to be a bad experience and thus scare your child away from seeing the dentist regularly (twice a year for checkups). Because while you can make them go when they live with you, once they grow up, they will be setting their own agenda. And those kids that grow up hating the dentist typically become adults who hate the dentist and therefore skip trips to the dentist – setting a pattern that leads to bad health and pain in years to come.
That’s why parents should take a few moments and be very intentional with their children ahead of their first visit to the dentist. And the good news is that thanks to children’s dentistry, there are very easy ways to accomplish this.
Prepare your child
First, you should always schedule morning dentist appointments for children, so that they are fresh and more likely to be in a good mood.
If your child is old enough to understand what is going to happen, you should give them a general idea of what the dentist is, why you’re going, and that it’s going to be a fun experience. Make it seem exciting and fun.
The good news is that modern dentistry ensures that it is likely to be just that, as dentist cater to children and making the experience both painless and entertaining.
Remember that children take their emotional and psychological cues from their parents. That’s why it is important for you to approach a dental exam with patience and openness. If you have personal anxieties about the dentist, do your best to honestly address those issues with others but not with your young children, as they won’t be able to determine what’s rational from irrational yet. Remember, you don’t necessarily want your concerns to become your child’s concerns. So, if you treat a trip to the dentist like it’s going to be fun – especially in front of younger children – the odds that they will do the same are vastly increased.
Meanwhile, when you’re at the dentist be sure to be supportive and calm to your child.
When talking with a pediatric dentist be thorough and intentional; try to ensure that you get answers to any questions you may have. You may even want to ask for a dental visit fact sheet to help you understand everything that the dentist is looking for and found in your child’s mouth.
If you are unsure of how your child may react to a dental visit, here are some typical reactions that you may expect dependent upon their age when you visit dentists. These are important ages for children to see the dentist — no matter how they react to the experience.
· 10 to 24 months – If your child tends toward attachment to you, they may get upset when they have to sit in the exam chair. You should simply remain there, within touching distance, and calm.
· 2 to 3 years – Attachment anxiety may still be present, while they may also refuse to follow the dentist’s instructions “open up wide,” etc. However, you can still play a key role by supporting the dentist and remaining calm.
· 4 years – By this age, your child should be able to visit with the dentist without your aid.
Benefits of Early Dental Visits
Seeing a pediatric dentist by their first birthday or when their first teeth begin to grow in will set your child up for a healthy dental future. Early checkups can help prevent tooth decay – and thus help your child avoid oral pain. It will also help them have a healthy, confident smile – and that can lead to better overall health. That’s because they will chew and digest food better, as well as avoid other dental complications, and even enjoy a psychological boost from possessing a great smile.
Early dental visits will also provide you with key information, as the dentist will make you aware of potential issues such as:
· Baby bottle tooth decay
· Infant feeding practices
· Mouth cleaning
· Pacifier habits and finger-sucking habits
Signs to Look For
If your child exhibits any of these signs, no matter their age, you should contact your dentist immediately and schedule an examination.
· Tooth pain – Any sort of toothache that lasts more than a few seconds should be examined. Severe pain may even require an emergency dental visit.
· Tooth sensitivity – Watch out for how your child reacts to easting hot and cold foods. And if they complain of sensitivity, it is a good time to call a dentist.
· Bleeding or swollen gums – This could occur due to any number of reasons, including plaque buildup or infection, but any time your child complains of this – or you notice it – please call a dentist right away,
· Repeated bad breath – Everyone – even kids – have morning breath. But if your child continuously has bad breath, it could be a sign of decay or infection – in which case you will want to see a dentist as soon as possible.
Protect your children’s teeth at home
One of the cornerstones of good dental health is home care. And while you should most definitely get your children to the dentist, how they treat their teeth at home is the foundation for their dental health.
With that in mind, you should maintain similar oral health habits for your children that you do for yourself, including brushing at least twice daily, flossing, staying hydrated, avoiding junk food and sweet drinks and sticky candy as much possible.
Even if your child isn’t old enough to brush their own mouth yet, there are things you can do to help boost their dental health, including:
· Clean your baby’s teeth with a wet rag after every feeding.
· Don’t let them sleep with bottles or allow bottles to sit in their mouths for extended periods, as this encourages bacterial growth.
· Use a very soft bristled brush on their baby teeth and gums.
· Brush their teeth/tooth twice a day, gently and with no toothpaste.
Once reach 18 to 24 months you can begin to adapt a few of their dental habits, including:
· Start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste at age 2.
· Teach your child to brush for 2 minutes in gentle circle motions.
· Change out toothbrushes regularly (every 3-4 months) to prevent bacteria build-up and ensure the best cleanse.
How Often Should My Toddler Go to the Dentist?
Just like you, your toddler should see the dentist every six months. If your child needs a little confidence boost, your dentist may schedule some visits in between just to help build trust and comfort in the process.
Don’t Delay Your Child’s First Dental Visit Any Further
If your child is closing in on their first birthday or already has teeth and has not yet seen the dentist, don’t delay any longer. Select dentists that will help ensure a healthy future for their teeth and gums. And if your child is suffering from any dental issues, don’t delay, set an appointment ASAP.
At BGW we specialize in making everyone comfortable with a visit to the dentist – while ensuring optimal dental health. Our pediatric dentist staff knows how to make the entire process comfortable and enjoyable for parents and children and take pleasure in helping every patient begin their dental health journey on the right foot. We also make it convenient for parents and kids all over north Georgia, with offices and great dental care in Braselton, Dahlonega, and Gainesville — all with a full complement of caring, professional, and experienced staff. We also offer extended hours and emergency care so that you are never without dental care. Simply call us today at 678-582-8099 or visit our website to set your child’s dental appointment. We make it our goal to be super dentists and a place that your child will enjoy on each and every visit.