As new parents, there are many milestones to look forward to — first steps, first words, and first tooth. With that first tooth (and the many teeth that will follow!) comes the responsibility to care for your child’s teeth and set up regular dental visits. One of the questions we get asked often is what age should you start taking your child to see the dentist? Here’s what you need to know about caring for baby teeth and making trips to the dentist an enjoyable and rewarding experience for both you and your children.
When Should My Child See a Dentist?
We recommend that you bring your child for their first dental visit when they are around 2 years old, unless you notice anything concerning before that. While their baby teeth will fall out and make way for adult teeth, they set the tone for the future health of your child’s smile. Regular visits (every 6 – 12 months) are recommended to teach and encourage good oral health habits earlier in life. It’s also easier to make children more comfortable with dental visits when they start at a young age.
What to Expect During the Visit
The first step is to make sure your child is comfortable. Easing them into the visit can reduce their anxiety (and the parents), making them more willing to cooperate. At The Grove Dental we have a dedicated kids play room that is well-stocked with toys (many of them dental related!) which usually makes for a great introduction to the clinic. All our staff absolutely love kids too, so you can rest easy knowing that by the time your child gets into the dental chair they will probably already have made several new best friends! Here’s what else you can expect during the appointment:
- A full medical history being taken
- A conversation about brushing (how often, which toothbrush and toothpaste to use, and how long to do it)
- Addressing any issues with teething or thumb sucking
- Nutritional advice to help keep teeth strong and healthy
- An assessment of your child’s bite and how the teeth are expected to come together
While a full cleaning might not happen on the first visit, this initial meeting will pave the way to making your child feel comfortable in the dentist’s chair. Expect the dentist to get a look inside your child’s mouth to assess the teeth, gums, jaw, bite, and any other oral issues.
How to Prepare for your Child’s First Dental Visit
Often, parents may be more nervous about a dental visit than their child! It’s important to control your anxieties and not let it rub off on your child. Don’t tell fearful stories or talk about needles or drilling teeth. Children look to you for guidance, so set the visit up as a positive and rewarding experience.
We do encourage you to talk to your child about their first dental appointment. Explain what will happen and what the dentist is looking for. Have them practice opening their mouth nice and wide.
If they have a favourite stuffed animal or doll, let them practice “playing dentist” on them. Your child can bring that toy to their appointment so the dentist can give it a “checkup” too!
As you brush your child’s teeth, explain what you’re doing and why. Good, lifelong dental habits start with the parents. If the child is taught proper brushing and dental techniques from a young age, they’re more likely to continue doing it for life.
Scheduling the appointment around your child’s nap and eating schedule is also important. If the visit is right in the middle of their usual nap time, it’s almost a guarantee the appointment won’t go well. Same thing if it’s near lunchtime. Working around your child’s schedule will allow for a more pleasant visit.
Also, please don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your concerns. While checking your child’s mouth and assessing their oral health is important, it’s equally crucial to have both parents and children comfortable with the experience. Easing anxieties from the start will ensure your children won’t be afraid of the dentist and will keep them coming back while maintaining solid habits throughout adulthood.
If your child is in need of a dental checkup, our team at The Grove Dental goes above and beyond to ensure your child’s first dental experience is comfortable and enjoyable. If you’re ready to schedule an appointment or looking for more information, contact us today.