When Should a Child First See a Dentist?

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Many children have a natural fear of going to the dentist. This fear can be greatly alleviated by proper oral health and by visiting the dentist on a regular basis, starting at an early age. In fact, a child should first see a dentist by his first birthday, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.


Time Frame

Pediatric dentists recommend taking your child for her first dental appointment about six months after her first tooth appears, or by the age of 12 months. After that, she should see a dentist about every six months, which is the same amount of visits recommended for most adults.

Benefits

While it may seem silly to visit the dentist over just one tooth, there are actually several good reasons to get an early start on good oral health. It is important to keep baby teeth healthy. Teeth are needed to help a child learn how to talk properly and chew food. Unfortunately, tooth decay can start early. In fact, the average 3-year-old has decay on three of his teeth, according to StorkNet. Early and frequent visits also allow a child to get comfortable with his dentist. Finally, the visits are a chance for the mother to learn more about caring for her child’s teeth.

Function

At the first visit, you will probably be asked to hold your child on your lap, where she is more comfortable. The dentist will ask for a history of your child’s eating and drinking habits, including whether she goes to bed with a bottle or milk or juice, or if she nurses to sleep. The dentist will also likely ask if your child uses a pacifier or sucks her thumb. All these factors can negatively affect the growth of her teeth. Then, the dentist will examine her teeth and gums. He may also try to get X-rays or do some cleaning, if necessary.

Prevention/Solution

Short visits to see the dentist are ideal, and the best way to keep them short and sweet is to maintain a healthy mouth in your child. Parents should brush their children’s teeth and gums. Most children under the age of 5 cannot properly brush, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. Use a pea-sized dollop of fluoride toothpaste for children over the age of 2, and just a smear of toothpaste for children younger than that. Brush in the morning and again at night, and floss if you can.

Expert Insight

Most young children have all their baby, or primary, teeth by the age of 2 1/2, according to KidsHealth. At this point, your child should be comfortable with the dentist. This familiarity with dental procedures might help your child in the near future. Children as young as 7 are now getting orthodontia treatment, including braces, as dentists come to realize that straightening teeth and correcting jaw problems can be easier and more effective when children are younger.

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