When the tooth fairy makes her very first visit to your home, what is she going to find when she peeks under the pillow? No tooth fairy – or parent – wants to take a look at a child’s very first lost tooth and find evidence of cavities, bottle rot, or discoloration. Making dental health a priority should start early so that children can build oral hygiene habits that will keep their teeth healthy for life. But when should a child first visit the dentist?
While there is no single correct answer, there are definitely some considerations that can help you decide when to schedule baby’s first dental appointment! Read on to learn about the signs that might mean that you’re ready to schedule your child’s first visit with a pediatric dentist!
When Should a Child Have Their First Dental Visit?
All children develop at an individual pace, and that includes when they begin teething. Most babies develop their first teeth between six and twelve months of age, and that variability means that some children will have a few teeth by their first birthday and others will have none. That is completely normal!
No matter when a baby begins teething, almost all children will have all of their baby teeth by the age of three. This is also the age when the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Dental Association suggest that children begin to brush their own teeth with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Should the first dentist visit come when the first teeth appear, or when children begin to care for their own teeth?
The consensus is that earlier is better. Most pediatric dentists agree that the time for a first visit is within six months of the appearance of a first tooth, or the age of one – whichever comes first.
Why So Early?
Picturing a baby in a dentist’s chair may seem absurd, but there is a good reason why dentists suggest that baby’s first dental appointment should be scheduled early.
Even babies can suffer from tooth decay. If your baby drinks from a bottle, and especially if they sleep with one, they are already at a higher risk of experiencing bottle rot. If you have a family history of cavities or dental issues, that risk increases.
If you wait until your child is older, it’s possible that decay could already be causing issues. When a first dentist’s visit reveals problems, the dentist’s office can become a place of stress for children and their parents.
What parents rarely think about is that teeth are part of the body, just like the heart or brain. Poor dental health can lead to poor general health. If you wouldn’t skip a well visit to the pediatrician, don’t put off a well visit to the dentist!
Even if no problems are present, it’s good for young children and babies to have positive early experiences with the dentist. Forming an early relationship with medical professionals can ease anxiety down the line, especially if problems arise later on. When a trip to the dentist is something to look forward to rather than dread, it’s easier on everyone involved!
What To Expect at Baby’s First Dentist Appointment
You might be wondering: If my baby only has one tooth, what can a dentist possibly do during a visit?
The truth is, many first appointments are quick and stress-free. The first visit is a time for your child to build a relationship with the dental professional, and learn to associate the dental exam room with positive experiences. The time the dentist takes to get to know your child is just as valuable as the exam itself!
You will be able to stay in the exam room during your baby’s appointment. Since your baby won’t be able to talk, questions about your child’s oral hygiene history will be addressed to you.
The dentist may ask about:
- Sleeping habits
- Pacifier use
- Home oral hygiene practices
- Family dental history
During the examination itself, the dentist will examine your child’s gums and count his or her teeth. This doesn’t take long, and shouldn’t be scary or traumatic for a child of any age! The dentist may also evaluate your child’s bite.
Often, the dentist will give you advice about how to care for your child’s teeth at home. It’s important to follow the dentist’s advice so that you can keep future visits to a minimum. You may feel foolish, but make sure to brush that one, shiny tooth!
The dentist may provide you with an appropriate toothbrush or toothpaste sample, and will often have a prize ready for your little one after the exam!
At the end of the appointment, you will most likely be able to schedule your child’s next visit. On average, children should see the dentist once every six months, or twice a year. If there are issues, you may need to schedule an appointment sooner to address them.
Smiles Start Early!
In essence, the answer to the question “When should a child first visit the dentist,” is simple! They should visit the dentist as soon as they have a tooth!
A baby’s first visit to the dentist is often an easy, positive experience that can help prepare your child for a lifetime of positive oral hygiene habits. If there are any problems, catching them early is a great way to prevent chronic dental issues from developing or worsening. For most children, however, the first appointment is a fun opportunity to build a relationship with a pediatric dentist that will likely carry them through their teen years!
Are you ready to make your baby’s first dental appointment? Contact us today to get the ball rolling on helping your child develop a stunning smile!