Scheduling Your Child's First Dentist Appointment
by Dr. Rylan Bennett, DDS on 8/10/2021
One of the biggest keys to long-term dental health is starting early. Though baby teeth will eventually make way for permanent, adult teeth, decay can set in as soon as your child’s first tooth emerges. Starting off with good habits and regular pediatric dental care will not only prevent decay, but also establish a strong foundation of primary teeth to aid your child in the development of chewing and speaking. Use these tips to learn when to schedule the first visit to the dentist and how to prepare your child for a positive experience.
When to Schedule Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment
Being a new parent is both incredibly rewarding and highly stressful. Between sleepless nights and days filled with frequent checkups and appointments, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Luckily, determining when to schedule your child’s first dentist appointment is easy and stress-free.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the first dental visit should happen within six months of the first tooth appearing, and no later than your child’s first birthday. Even if those milestones have already passed, the best thing to do is schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
While each child is slightly different, most babies start to develop teeth between six and 12 months. By age three, most children will have a set of 20 primary teeth that need regular care. Once your child’s teeth start to emerge, expect to schedule a visit to the dentist every six months just like adults. This will establish a relationship for the future and allow your dentist to monitor healthy growth and development.
How to Prepare for Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment
It’s easy to understand the value of visiting the dentist, but it can come with feelings of trepidation and anxiety in adults. As you prepare your child for their first appointment, do your best to remove your own feelings from the situation. The more it seems like a fun and exciting experience, the more it will lead to positive experiences down the road. New experiences can be overwhelming, so it may help to come prepared with a favorite toy or treat as extra incentive for cooperation.
In the weeks leading up to your child’s first dental appointment, start to familiarize them with what they can expect to happen at the office. Depending on the age of your child you can practice opening their mouth wide, counting their teeth, and even using a toothbrush. If your child is older you can read them books about visiting the dentist or demonstrate with a toy or stuffed animal. Scheduling an appointment early in the day is often recommended as your child is likely to be well rested and less fussy.
What to Expect at Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment
There are many dental professionals that specialize in dentistry for children. They understand each child has a different comfort level and will work with you to make the experience outstanding. You know your child best, so prepare the dentist with both health history and behavioral information so they can adapt to your specific needs. If your child is very young you will likely want to sit with them in your lap during the exam until they reach an age where they are more confident and independent.
Pediatric dental care doesn’t look too different from adult dental care. Here are a few more things you can expect during the visit:
- The appointment will take around 30-45 minutes.
- The dentist will perform a gentle examination of teeth and gums to look at how development is progressing and check for any signs of decay.
- Depending on the condition of your child’s teeth, the dentist may perform a gentle cleaning to remove any plaque or tartar buildup.
- The dentist will review proper techniques for brushing, flossing, and other regular at-home care.
Be sure to come prepared with any questions you may have about children’s dentistry to address them at the end of the visit.
Habits for Healthy Teeth in Young Children
As adults we’ve been brushing our teeth for as long as we can remember. However, we probably don’t have much memory of what dental care looked like in our earliest years. Here are a few habits to develop at home to aid in the healthy development of your child’s teeth:
- Once the first tooth emerges, start brushing twice a day with a small dab of toothpaste roughly the size of a grain of rice. Consult with your dentist for recommendations on the best toothpaste for young children.
- Avoid food and drink that can cause decay. This would include anything high in sugars such as juices, sodas, and candy.
- Limit the amount of time your child has with a bottle to prevent decay. Ideally they should finish a bottle in just a few minutes. Avoid giving them a bottle before bedtime or a nap.
- Supervise brushing for several years until your child develops effective habits and a regular routine.
- If you notice anything unusual or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your dentist directly.
With a few simple preventative measures at home and regular visits to a professional specializing in children’s dentistry or pediatric dental care, your child will be on the path to a healthy smile for life.
If it’s time for your child’s first visit to the dentist, click here to schedule an appointment today!