When a child should visit a dentist for the first time is a common point of confusion among parents. Ask around, and you’ll get answers everywhere from 6 months to 6 years. So, when is the right time to take a child to the dentist for their first visit?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association, the answer is within six months after your child’s first tooth erupts. This frequently occurs between 6 and 12 months.
Below, we’ll explore what your child’s first appointment with a dentist may entail.
What Should You Expect at the First Dental Visit?
Your child’s first dental visit typically lasts between 15 and 30 minutes and involves very little treatment. This visit is geared towards building your child’s confidence when it comes to dental visits as well as creating a rapport between your child and their dentist.
During the visit, your dentist will check all of your child’s existing teeth for decay. He or she will also examine your child’s bite and check for the potential or existing jaw, gum, and oral issues and act on them accordingly.
You’ll also learn about basic pediatric dental health care and discuss common dental developmental issues. Some of the things you may talk about include:
- Proper oral hygiene practices for your child’s teeth and gums
- Oral habits, including lip sucking, tongue thrusting, and thumb sucking
- Fluoride needs
- Proper nutrition
- Scheduling for subsequent dental visits
Why Take Your Child to a Pediatric Dentist and Not a Regular Dentist?
In addition to the dentistry education they’ve completed, pediatric dentists have also completed at least two additional years of training in pediatric dentistry – the specialty of practicing just with infant and children’s teeth.
Pediatric dentists are specially trained in the management and treatment of children’s developing teeth, physical growth, and development, as well as child behavior. They are also equipped to deal with any specialized needs of children’s dentistry.
While regular dentists can address your child’s oral health care needs, pediatric dentists and their office settings are designed to resonate with children and uphold their comfort.
Preparing Your Child for Their First Dental Visit
It’s important to be well-prepared for your child’s first visit to the dentist. You want your child to be at ease and comfortable during the examination. Here are some tips for preparing yourself and your child:
- Think of the visit as an opportunity for making discoveries and new friends. This will generally ease anxiety. Don’t bribe your child with goodies as this could arouse their suspicion. Using phrases such as “don’t be afraid” may only make your child anxious.
- If you’re anxious, it’s imperative that you don’t transfer that anxiety to your child. It’s advisable to leave your child alone with the dentist when they’re ready. This can help build a trusting relationship.
- When your child gets scared or uncooperative, consider letting them spend time with their new dentist, exploring the environment and the dental equipment. When they start getting comfortable, don’t proceed with the examination. Reschedule it for the next day.