It’s important to schedule your child’s first dental visit before their first birthday. At that point, children’s baby teeth are starting to appear and are susceptible to decay and cavities. Although their baby teeth are not permanent, decay in baby teeth can lead to an increase in the risk of decay to their permanent teeth once they start to develop.
Many new parents are surprised by this recommendation, but they also don’t realize that preschool-aged children are getting more cavities. In fact, 25 percent of kids had a cavity by age four in the United States. Cavities are appearing in children as early as two years old.
Why Baby Teeth Are Important
Parents who have never taken their child to the dentist often are surprised to find out that baby teeth (also called primary teeth) need to stay in place until they naturally fall out. Baby teeth are important for a number of reasons:
Helping proper chewing
Saving space for permanent teeth
Supporting a healthy smile
Preparing for the Initial Visit to the Dentist
Preparation is a key to a successful first dental appointment for your child. Be sure to contact your dentist prior to your child’s first visit to discuss the procedures at the office so you avoid surprises. Have the dental office send you the forms you need to fill out for your child ahead of time. Or if they have online forms, use that option.
Be sure to discuss your child’s first visit to the dentist in a relaxed and positive manner. They will pick up on any negative feeling you have about dental offices, so maintaining a patient and calm approach to their questions is important.
Help your child practice brushing their teeth prior to the first visit so they will be used to the feel in their mouth of a toothbrush. Learn as much as you can about a child’s first dental visit and their oral health before you take them to the dentist for the first time. Delta Dental has a great set of resources on their website at www.mysmilekids.com. It’s filled with fun activities and interesting stories to teach kids about their teeth.
Send a list of any medical issues that affect your child to your dentist, along with a list of medications they take. Keep the phone number for your child’s pediatrician easily accessible in case your dentist asks for additional health information.
Finally, bring your child’s most-loved blanket, toy or stuffed animal so that they feel secure and comforted on their first visit to the dentist.
What to Expect At Your Child’s First Visit
Make sure to schedule your child’s first dental visit early in the day so that they are alert and feeling fresh. Expect a bit of fussing from your child during the visit, but many parents are surprised how easily their child accepts the dentist’s examination. In fact, many kids like the novelty of the visit and the extra attention.
Your dentist will check the development of your son’s or daughter’s teeth and look for any problems. They will do a thorough but gentle exam of your child’s teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues.
This first visit is also a great time to chat with your dentist about tips for dental care for your child, including diet’s impact on oral health, risk of cavities, oral hygiene, use of fluoride, oral habits (thumb and finger sucking), and preventing trauma to their mouth.
Developing trust with successful visits to the dentist will provide your child with an important foundation for their future oral health. This will reduce potential anxiety and fear, which will make for plenty of stress-free visits in the future. Most experts recommend that children see the dentist about every six months so don’t forget to schedule your child’s second appointment on your way out the door!
Sources: Parents.com, KnowYourTeeth.com, Colgate.com, DeltaDentalIns.com