At what age should children first visit the dentist?
How can you help to make it a positive and enjoyable experience?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that the first visit should be around one year old, or six months after the first tooth comes through.
If at all possible, take your child for their first visit before they have any problems. Tooth decay can start to develop soon after the first teeth enter the mouth. Sadly, too many children develop cavities before their parents realise there is a problem.
Early and regular check-ups help your child to become comfortable with the dentist and the environment. Your dentist can also assess risk factors for your child developing dental decay and give personalised preventive advice.
Many parents are anxious about the first dental visit as they are not sure how their child will behave. Children are not born with a fear of going to the dentist. However, young children are naturally anxious about new situations and people and look to their parents and other adults for reassurance. If you are positive it is more likely your child will be too.
Help prepare your child
Talk to your child about why they need to look after their teeth and tell them that the dentist is there to help them. There are many good children’s books and videos available which can help children to understand about going to the dentist.
For young children, you could “play dentist” at home. You and your child can take it in turns to “be the dentist” and check each other’s teeth. Also try using your child’s favourite soft toy or a puppet and “check their teeth.” You can buy small plastic mouth mirrors for this, or just use your toothbrush.
If your child has a sibling, cousin or friend who is good with the dentist it may be helpful watch them have a check-up first.
Tips to make the first visit successful
Try to schedule the appointment at the best time for your child. Small children especially do not do so well if they are tired and hungry.
It is also better to go at a time when the practice is not too busy, this avoid too much waiting and allow the dentist to spend more time with you and your child.
You will be asked to fill out a health questionnaire for your child. In case of any medical problems or current medication, remember to bring details with you.
Arrive 10 minutes early if possible. This will allow time for you to fill in any forms while your child plays in the waiting area.
The first visit should ideally be short, a chance to get used to the environment and meet the dentist and other staff. A quick check-up can be done either in the dental chair or on a parent’s lap.
For children four years and under, the best way to see the teeth is often for a parent to hold their child on their lap while they lay their head back onto the dentist’s lap.
The dentist will assess your child’s dental health and development and give advice. If early signs of decay are seen, it may be possible to prevent it progressing to become a cavity.
If you would like to schedule a check-up for your child, or have any questions, please contact us at Small Bites – exclusive dental care for children.