Many parents are curious about when their children should start seeing the dentist––and many are surprised to learn the answer. The American Dental Association recommends that a child’s first dental visit occur within six months of the appearance of their first baby tooth, but no later than the first birthday. Here’s what you can expect at this very important first dental visit.
Establishing a Relationship of Trust
Some parents balk at the idea of bringing a child to the dentist before he or she even has teeth, but the point of these early visits is not so much to check for cavities and other problems (although we will do that too), it’s to lay a foundation for a lifetime of good oral health. An important part of this is establishing a trusting relationship between parent, patient, and dentist.
Early dental visits should be stress-free, positive, and even fun for children. Use positive language when talking about the dentist and schedule a visit for a time when your child is well-rested and usually in a good disposition (I.e., don’t book the appointment during naptime!). Expect that your child may feel timid and might need you to hold him or her during the exam, which is perfectly fine.
First dental visits are typically between 30 and 45 minutes and they’re mostly spent talking to mom or dad.
An important part of the first dental visit is to discuss best practices for oral care with parents. This includes nutrition advice, like not allowing babies to go to bed with their bottles and not putting juice and other sweet drinks in bottles either, discussing what to expect as teeth erupt and how to treat any pain or discomfort, and oral hygiene instruction.
During the first visit, we’ll talk to you about the best dental products to use, fluoride needs, and show you how to brush your child’s teeth.
We’ll examine your child’s mouth and document which teeth have erupted. We’ll also look for signs of decay in teeth that have already emerged. Contrary to popular belief, tooth decay does matter in baby teeth because it leaves permanent teeth more susceptible to decay when they come in and severe decay can impact a child’s overall health.
If your child is still a baby, this will be the extent of the exam. If your child is a toddler and it’s their first visit to our office, we will perform a more thorough examination of the teeth, jaw, bite, and gums and do a gentle teeth cleaning if necessary. We’ll look for problems relating to thumb sucking or pacifier use and, if we feel they’re needed, give your child a fluoride treatment or dental sealants to protect against cavities.
X-rays are almost always avoided for very young children unless a serious dental issue is evident. Because baby teeth fall out, we’re most concerned about any issues we see that may be impacting the development or emergence of a child’s adult teeth.
Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Visit
If it’s time for your child to go to the dentist, contact us at 908-735-6300 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mary Jo McGuire.