There are a few differing opinions as to when parents should begin taking their children to the dentist. Many pediatric dentists recommend scheduling a child’s first dental check-up when the first tooth appears, or no later than the child’s first birthday. These early dentist visits not only give the dentist a chance to monitor your child’s oral health and dental development, but they also help your child become familiar with the dentist and dental check-ups. Additionally, these visits can help answer any questions parents may have regarding the proper care of their child’s teeth as well as any questions regarding their child’s dental development. Your child’s first visit to the dentist may include the following, depending on the age of your child:
- Examination of your child’s teeth
- Examination of your child’s jaw and gums
- Evaluation of your child’s bite
- Teeth cleaning, if needed
- X-rays, if needed (usually for older children)
As an added benefit, the dentist should also discuss the proper way to care for your child’s teeth at home as well as answer any questions regarding brushing, flossing, fluoride use, and proper nutrition. Additional discussions may include the child’s oral habits (thumb sucking, pacifiers, etc.), teething, or dental development milestones. Your questions are encouraged, as these visits are as much for the parents as they are for the child.
Subsequent check-ups will most likely be scheduled on a regular bi-annual basis unless your child has any oral issues that require more frequent visits. Occasionally, the completion of an examination or procedure may require additional appointments in order to help your child become comfortable enough with the dentist to accept treatment. In these situations, it is beneficial to remain calm and try to be understanding of your child’s apprehensions. As children become more familiar with a dentist and dental office, they may be more willing to cooperate and actively participate in their own dental health.
Scheduling your child’s first dental check-up when you see the first tooth or by age one may help your child become more familiar with the dentist and with the routine of oral healthcare. This familiarity can be beneficial in alleviating apprehensions your child may have regarding future visits to the dentist. Additionally, by getting involved in an oral healthcare routine at an early age, they will have a better understanding of the importance of good oral health and can begin to develop beneficial oral hygiene habits.
Children learn from example. By being good role models at home – by brushing and flossing regularly, as well as eating a nutritious diet, your child can develop good oral hygiene habits that will last a lifetime. And as Dr. Cobb always says: good oral hygiene habits, combined with healthy food choices and bi-annual checkups are the best way to prevent tooth decay.