Taking your child to the dentist for the first time is always a nerve-wracking experience. Not just for your little one, but for parents too. But despite any nerves or apprehensions you may have, it’s never wise to put off their first dental checkup.
Most parents are under the impression that their child needs to have teeth in order to visit the dentist, but this is not the case. Your child’s oral health becomes a priority as soon as they begin eating solid foods.
Here’s more on when to see a pediatric dentist for the first time, as well as how to prepare your little one for the visit.
Why Pediatric Dentist Checkups are Important
The average age most parents take their children for their first dental checkup is around two years old. While this may seem like an early enough age, it’s actually quite late as per dental and medical professional recommendations.
Some of the main reasons why parents put off dental visits are because of age, their child ”not having enough teeth”, or a lack of insurance coverage. But according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), it’s super important to care for primary teeth as long as possible, until they fall out naturally.
Allowing ”baby teeth” to fall out on their own is important for a number of reasons:
- It promotes better chewing habits in children, which maintains good nutrition
- It helps speech development
- Primary teeth save space for the development of permanent teeth
- It promotes a healthy smile and boosts self-confidence in children
Visiting a dentist from an early age, even before the development of primary teeth, can help to keep them in good condition. According to this pediatric dentist, the first dental visit is a good opportunity for parents to learn how to care for primary teeth, while they’re still in good shape.
So, with this in mind, what is the recommended age that children should first visit a dentist? From the age of one year old, or within the first six months after the development of a child’s first tooth.
What to Expect During the First Dentist Visit
As parents, it’s important to understand that the first dental visit does not actually involve any real dental work. The purpose of a child’s first dental checkup is this:
- It introduces them to the dental office environment
- It allows them to explore various instruments and become acquainted with them, rather than fearful of them
- It allows your child to become comfortable with the dentist
- It allows your child to get to know other staff members
- It allows you, the parent, to understand specific dental language and instructions
Once your child is a little more relaxed, only then will the pediatric dentist take a look inside your child’s mouth. Generally, the process is very quick and painless. The dentist will check your child’s gums, jaw, bite, and the condition of any teeth. They also check for baby bottle caries, frenum problems, or any other issues that can impede speech development.
You will also be briefed on good oral hygiene practices, how to care for primary teeth, and what to do when they fall out.
How Often Are Dental Checkups Necessary?
After your first dental checkup, it’s recommended that children visit the dentist every six months after that. If a dental issue crops up before then, make sure to schedule an appointment right away. These types of issues tend to center on the development of teeth grinding, mouth breathing, or a lisp.
During each dental checkup, the dentist builds on the work they did last, adding a step to each visit. This is so that your child can slowly adjust to new procedures, without becoming fearful of each visit.
During your first and second dental visit, you will be able to sit in the chair and hold your child while the dentist examines their mouth. During every other visit after that, you may be asked to stand next to the chair as your child develops their independence.
By the age of three years old, your child should be fully acquainted with the dental chair and will undergo full dental checkups. You can expect your child to have their first dental x-rays done around the age of five.
How to Calm Dental Visit Nerves
It’s no secret that your child may be nervous or even fearful of their first dental visit, or any other visits after that. But remember that if you take your child for their first checkup around the age of one, they will be too young to be nervous. After the age of two, children begin to develop a sense of what is going on around them and may struggle with nerves.
Here’s how to prepare your child for dental checkups and familiarize them with the dental environment:
- Give them a sneak peek of what to expect by taking them with you to your next dental checkup. Just make sure it’s a simple, routine teeth examination and clean!
- Educate your child about dentistry and what to expect with books and online resources, such as mysmilekids.com
- Roleplay — take turns being the patient and the dentist and make the experience fun for your child
- Don’t rush things — make sure that you have set aside plenty of time for the dental checkup
Finally, it’s also super important that your child is in a good mood before a dental visit. This means that they should be well-rested (ideally after a nap), and well-fed so that they are relaxed and comfortable.
Take Control of Your Family and Personal Health
Visiting a pediatric dentist for the first time does not have to be a traumatic experience for both child and parent. With enough preparation and a dose of good timing, you can ease your child into the world of dentistry.
If you’re interested in keeping your family and yourself in top health, be sure to explore the rest of this site for your daily dose of health and fitness news!