When Should I Take My Child For Their First Dentist Appointments?

As your baby begins teething and their teeth begin to erupt, you may start asking yourself when the best time to take them to their first dentist appointments might be. Are they too young? If they don’t eat candy or drink juice, is the trip even worth it? 

It Might Be Earlier Than You Realize

Although most American children don’t see a dentist until after their 2nd birthday, children should be visiting the dentist by their first birthday or within six months of when their first tooth erupts, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Children’s teeth usually start coming in around six months of age. It’s essential that they begin seeing a dentist during the recommended time frame. During their first visit, you’ll receive information on topics such as baby bottle tooth decay, infant feeding practices, mouth cleaning for your child, pacifier habits, and how they can affect your child’s teething, and finger sucking habits.

Caring For Your Child’s Teeth At Home

In conjunction with regular dentist appointments, home care for your child’s smile is integral. Before their teeth come in, their gums should be cleaned with a clean damp cloth. A child should have their teeth brushed with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush, as soon as their first tooth has erupted. Before they are able to reliably spit and avoid swallowing, a rice grain-sized amount of toothpaste is appropriate. When they can spit (around age 3-5), you can move on to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Be sure to monitor and help children brush until about age 7 or 8; they can even watch you brush to establish correct brushing times and patterns in an effort to reduce any missed spots or teeth.

Along with proper teeth brushing practices, it’s also important to monitor your child’s feeding habits to ensure that they aren’t feeding for too long or consuming too much sugar, as maintaining a healthy diet is key to avoiding cavities. Sugary beverages and allowing your child to fall asleep with a bottle can cause bacteria that create a perfect environment for cavities to thrive. Limit time for bottle feedings, as well; your child should be finishing a bottle in 5 or 6 minutes.

Visits With Family Doctors and Pediatricians

Your family doctor or pediatrician will most likely offer guidance and encouragement as your child nears the age where they should be seeing a dentist. These physicians can offer and perform basic oral care. But, it is by means no substitute for an oral exam at the dentist’s office — dentists are trained to spot signs of early decay. Risks for decay and discoloration can begin in a child’s first tooth. Therefore, it is very important that a dentist keeps an eye on your child’s teeth. Young children and infants who develop dental disease typically aren’t eligible to receive in-office sedation for restorative procedures. So, you’ll want to prevent the need for these procedures.

Navigating Dentist Appointments with Your Children

It’s important to create a habit of going to the dentist for your children; exposing them to the dentist from an early age will encourage them to become more comfortable with the process. Making the experience exciting for your kids will help them know there is nothing to fear. For babies and younger children, consider scheduling earlier appointments so that they are as awake and as alert as possible. For older children, give them an idea of what to expect so that there aren’t any surprises going in. Early visits are done sitting in the parent and dentist’s lap until they are able to be in the dental chair on their own. 

For first visits, prepare to give your child’s complete health and medical history. Be sure to let them know how your children typically fare in other medical office situations — like at the pediatrician’s office. First visits typically last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on their age, a full exam can be required to check bite, growth, development, and gums, along with gently cleaning.

Some x-rays might be required if there are any significant abnormalities happening with your child’s teeth. X-rays are taken based on age and any symptoms that your child might be experiencing. They will be taken around age five if there are no previous visual concerns. Be sure to note that young children should not receive x-rays unless absolutely necessary.

Schedule Your Child’s First Appointment

During your child’s initial dentist appointments, they will show you the proper way to help your child floss. The fluoride treatment is quick and painless to apply (usually 10 seconds or less) and provides proven cavity prevention benefits. Your child’s dentist may also use fun visuals and stuffed animals to demonstrate how best to brush their teeth. As for future visits, follow up visits are based on your child’s dental needs, age, and ability to cooperate; some dentists might encourage more frequent visits if they would like to keep an eye on development.

At Westdale Dental, we are so looking forward to inviting you and your family to join our practice. We are ready to help you navigate your child’s dental health to maintain those adorable smiles. Contact us today to set up your dentist appointments.


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