If you’re a parent, you may wonder how old your child has to be before they should visit the dentist for the first time. The answer may surprise you: the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends kids should see a dentist when their very first tooth appears, and no later than their first birthday.
Here’s why it’s really important to have your child start seeing the dentist while they’re still a baby, and what the both of you can expect at a kid’s first dental appointment.
Why So Soon?
It may sound like taking a baby to the dentist is way too soon; after all, they don’t have many teeth yet. But getting a jump on your child’s dental health sooner rather than later is one of the best things you can do to ensure they have a healthy smile for life.
For starters, tooth decay is a serious problem for young American children. Nearly 28% of American children ages two to five have cavities in their primary teeth. Babies and toddlers are especially susceptible to baby bottle decay, which is caused by letting a child drink milk or a sweetened beverage from a bottle without properly cleaning the teeth.
When caught early by regular checkups, cavities don’t cost much to be filled. But decay that goes undetected for years because a child is not seeing a dentist regularly can lead to costlier dental treatments including root canals and crowns. Your child can also suffer from toothache and abscesses and loose teeth if decay spreads too much.
Bringing your child to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears will help prevent these problems and ensure the at-home oral care you’re providing is doing their job. The dentist will also be able to tell if your child will need braces later on and make sure their mouth, in general, is healthy and shaped properly.
Taking the child to a dentist so early in life will also get them used to the environment, the equipment used, and dental visits in general. It will help them become an adult who’s not afraid of the dentist and more likely to visit for check-ups regularly.
How to Find the Right Dentist
For babies and very young children, you may want to choose a pediatric dentist. They have a few more years of training in addition to general dentistry to specifically treat children and make them feel at ease in the chair. Their office and staff is likely to be very patient and child-friendly.
A general dentist recommended by other parents and reviews may be a good fit as well.
What to Expect at the First Visit
The dentist will most likely let you hold your child on your lap, especially if they’re very young, to make them more comfortable. They’ll give them an introduction to some of the tools and equipment they use (depending upon the age of your child and how many teeth they have) and explain the importance of taking care of their teeth.
If your child has enough teeth, they’ll also receive a professional teeth cleaning and their first x-rays. The dentist will examine their teeth for cavities, their bite, and the overall health of their teeth and gums and make any recommendations for treatment.
The dentist will also discuss with you the child’s at-home oral care, if they have any habits such as sucking their thumb, and access to fluoride. They may also go over what your child can do to get strong teeth.
Most dental offices will also send your child off with a small prize!
Book Your Kid’s First Dental Appointment With Us
As a family dental practice, we’re experienced in treating patients of all ages from the very young through senior years. Our friendly and caring staff focuses on helping anyone of any age achieve a beautiful and healthy smile.
If it’s time for your kid’s first dental visit, contact us to make an appointment.