When Should My Child Start Going to the Dentist?

Benefits of Early Childhood Dental Visit & Tips for Their First Trip

The first few years of your child’s life are marked by all types of milestones: their first step, their first word, and inevitably their first tooth. But when it comes to that first tooth, parents often themselves troubled by the same question: when should I take my child to the dentist? Though we know many of you may also be asking “will teething ever get easier?”

We’re happy to help answer any of your tooth-related questions, but in this post, we’ll help you decide when your child should visit the dentist and what you can do to make the experience as positive as possible.

According to the American Academic of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), parents should take their child to the dentist as soon as their first tooth emerges. Some parents, however, choose to delay their child’s first dentist appoint until the age of 2 or 3. There are benefits to both options, but one thing is clear: the earlier your child sees a dentist, the better chance you have at preventing cavities or other oral health issues.

If you’re not sure when to schedule your child’s appointment, it’s a good idea to consult your pediatrician and family dentist (or anticipated pediatric dentist). Together, you can choose the best time based on your child’s unique needs.

Benefits of Early Childhood Dental Visits

Taking your child to the dentist early in life has many benefits. Here are a few of the top reasons you should consider scheduling your child’s first dentist appointment earlier rather than later.

Improved Oral Health: Your child may not face the exact same dental issues that adults do, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk for cavities or tooth decay. This is particularly true if your child is fond of fruit juices and sweet snacks, though the absence of those items doesn’t automatically mean a problem-free mouth.

By bringing your child in for a visit early on in their life, your dentist can quickly address any potential problems or turn to preventative measures, like fluoride applications or sealants, to protect vulnerable teeth.

Similarly, even though your child will start to lose their “baby” teeth by the age of 5 or 6, the development and formation of those teeth set the foundation for permanent teeth. When issues like tooth decay or even bite problems are left unaddressed, your child may go on to suffer from long-term oral health problems that can affect everything from tooth alignment to speech development.

Increased comfort during dental visits

For some people, a trip to the dentist can result in stress and anxiety. Introducing your child to the dentist early helps them learn what to expect and, over time they will become more comfortable with the dental practice as well as the professionals who care for their teeth.
In the end, this can make future childhood visits much easier on both of you.

Life-long healthy habits

When your child is young, it’s easier to instill healthy habits, like choosing nutritious foods or staying active. The same is true when it comes to oral health. By bringing your child to the dentist early in life, and keeping up with bi-annual cleaning appointments, you can help show your child the importance of dental health. This can increase the likelihood that they will continue this healthy habit well into adulthood.

How to prepare your child for their first trip to the dentist

Even the most outgoing children can be apprehensive about new experiences, and their first trip to the dentist is no exception. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make sure that their first visit is a success.

Choose the right dentist

It’s important to choose a dentist that is familiar with the unique needs of children, especially those just starting their oral care journey. That means finding a practice that not only provides pediatric dentistry services but also strives to make children as comfortable as possible while they get used to this new experience.

For instance, when we welcome young patients into our practice, we like to spend the first visit introducing them to the sights and sounds they’ll come to expect during future visits. We want them to check out the tools, sit in the chair, and get comfortable with their environment. If that goes well, we’ll schedule a cleaning for their next visit. If they’re still nervous, we’ll continue to work with them until they’re ready for the real deal.

It also helps to remember that your child will grow with their dentist. A younger dentist may help alleviate some of the initial anxiety or phobias a child may have and prevent the need for unexpected changes down the road should their dentist retire.

Introduce your child to the dentist before their visit

In the days and weeks leading up to your appointment, start to talk to your child about the dentist. Let them know why it’s important and what they can expect when they get there.

We also recommend that you check out some of the great books, cartoons, and videos designed to help your child prepare for their first trip to the dentist. The more you talk about it, the more comfortable they will feel.

Bring them along

If your child is old enough to sit and watch while you take your turn in the chair, consider bringing them with you to your next cleaning. Doing so can help them learn what sights and sounds to expect while you act as a role model for their future visit.

Plan accordingly

Before you pick your appointment, take note of what time of day is best (or worst) for their visit. It’s typically not a good idea to bring your child in right before a nap or immediately following tiresome activities, like a busy day at playschool. If your child is tired or cranky, the new environment can be overwhelming, making their first experience a bad one.

There’s no doubt your child’s smile warms your heart, and one of the best things you can do for them is to make sure that a smile is a healthy one. They may not have their baby teeth for long, but that doesn’t mean dental care shouldn’t start when they’re young.

If you have a little one who is ready to take their first trip to the dentist, we’re happy to help answer any questions and help you make it a positive experience that will have lasting benefits. Give us a call at (570) 331-8100 or contact us online to set up an appointment and take the first step towards that perfect smile.