When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?

At what age should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should see a dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his or her first birthday.  

At The Grove City Center for Dentistry, we agree. We also believe your child’s first visit isn’t so much about the actual dental hygiene exam and cleaning.  The importance of the visit is to introduce your child to going to the dentist at a young age. Visiting the dentist at an early age helps kids get comfortable sitting in a dental chair, seeing the instruments used and the sounds of a dental office.  

What happens at my child’s first dental visit?

At the first visit, your dentist and team should spend time helping your child feel comfortable and safe.  Then, the dentist will take a look at your child’s teeth and do a quick examination to look for any decay or initial problems. At our office, we also check your child’s gums, bite and jaw to identify any issues that may affect teeth coming in or speech patterns.  We look for any frenum issues and concerns with baby bottle decay.  Your frenum is the “tissue” that connects the gum to your lip.  Baby bottle decay occurs when a baby drinks frequent amounts of sugary liquid, such as juice.

Our hygiene team will perform a dental cleaning and may recommend a fluoride treatment and/or dental sealants.  We also will talk with you and your child about good oral hygiene and show your child how to brush his or her teeth.

Typically, the first x-rays are taken at age 2.  However, young children do not need the comprehensive x-rays that adults get.

Depending on your child’s age and size, you may even be asked to sit in the dental chair with your child on your lap.  This helps very young kids get comfortable with the dental experience.

We recommend that you treat your child’s dental check-ups the same as you would a well-child check-up with a pediatrician.  The goal of your child’s first visit is to enjoy going to the dentist.  We know that starting early is a key to a lifetime of regular visits to the dentist.

How frequently should I take my child to the dentist?

We recommend that you schedule regular dental exams and check-ups every six months, just as you would for an adult.  

How do I get my child to like going to the dentist?

When your child starts visiting the dentist at an early age, it is easier to make the experience a fun one.

Things to DO to get your child to like going to the dentist:

  • Get excited about taking your child to the dentist.
  • Be positive
  • Let your child touch the items around him or her while sitting in the chair – with the assistance of your dental hygienist, of course.
  • Let your child ask lots of questions.
  • Explain what is happening during the visit in a positive way so your child will be interested and comfortable.
  • Make brushing and flossing fun at home.  This is the first step to life-long good oral hygiene.
  • If your child fusses, don’t worry.  Stay calm and remember that dentists and our teams are used to working with children and families.  We can help!

Things NOT TO DO to get your child to like going to the dentist:

  • Don’t use going to the dentist as a “punishment” for a behavior.
  • Don’t tell your child he or she will be punished if they misbehave at the dentist’s office
  • Don’t tell your child there are needles or that getting their teeth cleaned will hurt.  It doesn’t hurt.
  • Don’t bribe your child to go to the dentist or be “good” at the dentist’s office.  This sets up the expectation that the experience isn’t positive.

So, make sure you take your child to the dentist after the first tooth comes in.  And, try to make it a fun, positive experience!  This first visit to the dentist will shape your child’s lifelong perception of the dentist’s office and his or her own personal hygiene.

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