There’s a first for everything, as you often hear people say. And there are certainly many firsts for a child. At some point, they say their first word. They eat their first piece of solid food. At some point in time, they make their first friend. A child even goes through many firsts when it comes to their oral health, such as getting their first baby tooth. Another dental-related first for an infant? Their first dental check-up. Everyone knows there’s a first for this, but do you know when it’s time to take your child to the dentist for the very first time? We’ll let you know.
Here’s When to Take Your Child to the Dentist for the First Time
America’s Pediatric Dentists recommends taking your infant to the dentist when their first tooth begins to erupt. However, the first tooth for a child might appear later as every child is different. So, the general guideline is to make your child’s first dental visit before their first birthday.
If there are any concerns regarding:
- potential oral health problems in your child
- how to clean your child’s gums and teeth
- risks of dental-related genetic problems that may occur in your child in the future
then… it’s critical to bring this up with your child’s pediatric dentist. These types of things would even be appropriate to mention during their very first dental visit. Your child deserves the best care and attention possible.
The Benefits of Taking Infants to the Dentist
A year of age or sooner for your child’s first dentist appointment might seem really early. In fact, you probably thought you wouldn’t have to take them to their first visit until they were around four or five years of age. Although, there are very good reasons for taking your child during their infant years.
For once, taking your little one to the dentist early on means they can get more comfortable with the dentist. After all, the dentist can be intimidating for many children. A lot of kiddos get dental anxiety due to the “scary” tools dentists use or even just the unfamiliarity with the dentist and the dental office altogether. Fear of the unknown is a real thing. But the younger a child is during their first dental visit, the more comfortable they will feel at the dentist over time.
Secondly, taking your kiddo early will get them excited and motivated to begin to care for their own teeth and gums. Early visits instill the importance of good oral health in little ones so that they will grow up with the same mindset.
On top of that, taking an infant to the dentist will give you peace of mind knowing that things are going well. And if they aren’t, then your child can get those situations addressed right away. Parents don’t always know when something is wrong with their child’s health until they take them to a professional.
Not to mention, taking your child as early as possible means they will have better oral health. Through these early visits, you, the parent, can get some great advice for keeping your kid’s teeth top-notch. Your son or daughter can also get oral health problems like cavities addressed as soon as possible so that they won’t suffer from some more serious dental consequences. As a result of the latter, your children won’t be as afraid of the dentist as they won’t have to undergo painful or anxiety-provoking procedures such as tooth pulling or a root canal in the near future.
Even you as a parent can reap the benefits of taking your child to the dentist by the time they turn one. You will get more time to become familiar with your child’s dentist. In turn, you can decide if you want to continue having them see that particular dentist. Or, you might decide that there’s a better option for your child. You, of course, probably don’t want to keep having your child switch dentists when they’re older as that alone can cause a lot of anxiety for a child. Switching when they’re younger is often easier for them to adjust to.
All in all, it never hurts to get an early headstart on going to the dentist!
Motivating Your Infant to See a Dentist
Many new parents are unsure how to tell their infant about the dentist. They wonder if they should just not tell them until they arrive at their first appointment. But regardless of your child’s personality, it’s usually best to inform them about the dentist, even if it’s just a quick verbal introduction.
The best way to go about this is to, first things first, let them know about the dentist. Tell your little one who the dentist is and generally what they do (i.e., clean teeth). Let your kid know that the dentist is there to make sure their teeth are strong and healthy. They will have a check inside their mouth to see if everything looks healthy. The dentist will also clean their teeth. And the dentist might even give some advice for how your child can maintain a sparkly set of pearly whites. It’s awesome to have a pretty smile and is something to be proud of! Let them know this.
As you might have thought, always try to keep conversations with the dentist positive. Never mention words like “pain,” “blood,” or other negative or scary words. This will only trigger fear and anxiety, even before they step foot into the dental office.
It’s also important to allow your child’s curiosity to run wild. Answer any questions that they might have. If they don’t automatically ask anything, encourage them to ask anything they’re wondering about regarding the dentist. Getting them more involved in the conversation can help ease any worries or concerns that they might have.
When Does My Child Need to Go the Dentist Again?
As everyone knows, going to the dentist isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s not like you only have to go one time in your entire life, and you’re good to go. All throughout life, one should continue going regularly to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning. But how often is “regularly,” you ask?
Like adults, it’s recommended that parents take their child to the dentist every six months. That’s twice a year; that’s not so bad, folks. However, if your son or daughter has dental complications like multiple cavities or the need for braces, they may have to attend more frequent dental visits. It’s also crucial to know that if your child has a dental emergency like a lost tooth, you’ll need to take them in for an emergency visit. However, generally, most children in the United States go to the dentist twice a year max.
Luckily, many pediatric dental offices offer flexible hours to ensure children don’t have to miss out on school or at least can get children in and out as quickly as possible as to not disturb their studies too much. Not to mention, schools (and teachers) are pretty lax when it comes to letting students attend the dentist during school hours. It’s a must!
So, while you may disagree that a child’s first dental visit should be at or before age one and that they should continue to go twice a year, it’s still important. There’s only so far we and our children can care for their teeth. The job of a dentist is to make sure everything is alright oral health-wise and that we or our children are taking care of their teeth and gums properly. We can thank our lucky stars that these professionals are here to help us and keep our kiddos healthy!