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



A baby’s first tooth is always a memorable experience for parents and caregivers. It’s not only the sign of growth, but it also means an eventual switch to solid foods. But as much of a milestone as that first tooth can be, your child’s first trip to the dentist should also be an equally important step for healthy development. 

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts. Primary (or baby) teeth typically begin growing in around 6 months of age. Unfortunately, most children don’t see their family dentist until they are well over 2 years old, much later than is recommended by both dental and medical professionals.

Taking care of baby teeth is important because they hold space for permanent teeth. If a baby tooth become decayed it also increases the risk of decay in a child’s permanent teeth. Remember that as soon as your baby has teeth, he or she can get cavities. Being proactive about your child’s dental care at an early age can help build healthy dental habits that can last a lifetime. In fact, as a child grows into adulthood, having good dental habits can help prevent many serious health problems.

Bacteria from infected teeth, gingivitis and gum inflammation has been linked with such serious conditions as cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, diabetic complications and even dementia later in life. In addition, a lifetime of poor dental care can possibly cause immune system disorders, weak bones and problems with pregnancy. 

So, when you decide to take your child to a dentist for the first time, it’s important to select a dentist that has special training in pediatric dental care. A pediatric dentist is trained in the specific needs of infants, children and teens and typically emphasizes preventative care. Pediatric dentists also are also used to working with children and typically offer a more relaxed, kid friendly environment that is well-suited for that first-time visit. Also, a pediatric dentist knows when to refer a parent or caregiver to a specialist if a child might need to correct a special issue such as an overbite or jaw realignment.

As important as a child’s first trip to the dentist is, parents and caregivers also have to consider that for most kids, it can be a little scary. From the noise of dental equipment to having a stranger probe into their mouth, children have many reasons to fear that first visit. But to help make going to the dentist a little more pleasant, here are some tips to consider:

Talk it out: To prep your child for the first dental visit, talk to him or her about what to expect. You can have your child practice opening his or her mouth and talking about how a dentist will gently check out their gums and teeth. Remind your child that you will be seated nearby so they won’t feel they are going into the examining room alone. Talk to your child about the experience being a happy and positive one, and one that will leave their mouth feeling fresh and clean.

Reading books and watching videos: There are many books and videos on first dental visits that you can share with your child to let them know what to expect. You can search in your local library, on an online site such as Amazon or even on Youtube.com.

Scheduling: When you make that first appointment, schedule the visit time other than normal naptime. That way, your child will be well-rested and cooperative.

Extra Security: Even though you will be with your child during the dental visit, it’s always a good idea to be along a comforting item like a security blanket or favorite stuffed animal to help provide a little extra company.

Snacks: Make sure your child has eaten a snack or meal prior to a dental appointment so they won’t be distracted by being hungry. And save a healthy snack for after the visit so the food won’t be on the child’s teeth — and let it be a reward for the child for being a good patient!

To learn other ways to ease a child’s fear of the dentist, visit: https://www.parents.com/health/dental/kids-overcome-fear-dentists/

Start building good oral health habits for your child with these fun activities and lesson plans for children of all ages: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/resources

Visit abcquality.org to learn more about child care and development, search for ABC Quality approved child care provider and learn about the state’s voluntary quality rating system. ABC Quality is administered by the SC Department of Social Services’ Division of Early Care and Education.

By ABC Quality Team at 30 Apr 2019, 11:00 AM