When is the Right Time to Take a Child to the Dentist?

Baby Teeth, children, dentist

Don’t Wait Until a Dental Problem Occurs

Understandably, most parents are nervous at the prospect of taking their child to the dentist for the first time. But, when your child’s gummy, toothless smile is a thing of the past and a few ‘pearly whites’ begin to appear, you should schedule that first dental appointment.

If you are waiting for your child to grow old enough for their teeth to come in or for a tooth problem to occur before scheduling, you are misguided. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it is appropriate to schedule a first trip to the dentist after a child develops its first tooth, which will be before their first birthday. These associations maintain that a child should make that first visit within six months of the tooth erupting, but not any later than the age of two.

Initially, taking your child to the dentist is not for any real dental work. That first visit instead should serve to acclimate the child to the dental office. That is so they can become more comfortable on subsequent visits. This initial visit will also aid in identifying any pre-existing dental problems. It may be appropriate to bring your child to a dentist with experience with young children like Dr. Steven Markowitz.

There are several key reasons to take your child to the dentist:

  • To become more accustomed to the dentist’s office, overcoming some anxiety and fears, and learning that this visit is beneficial for the prevention of tooth problems.
  • Identifying and remedying any pre-existing tooth problems in order to prevent unclear speech, difficulty chewing, and misaligned teeth.
  • Examine the calcium and fluoride intake by a child and note if it is currently insufficient
  • Learn the right way to clean your child’s teeth
  • Instill a lifetime of healthy oral habits for the child

The first dental trip should be simply an icebreaker between the child and dentist. While a dentist will help your child overcome uneasiness, it may be appropriate to take a few comfort toys or distractions with you. In Dr. Markowitz’ office, we have several ways to make all our patients feel comfortable.

Don’t forget to treat your child after their first visit, as this will help build positive associations in their mind. It may take a few appointments before your child becomes comfortable with the dentist. The first visit should last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the age and trust level of the child.

You can prepare your child ahead of time for their first dental visit by asking the dentist what will take place, and then informing your child about it. Let them know what to expect, and they will generally be more cooperative.

How Often Should a Child See a Dentist?

Just like adults, children should see the dentist every six months. Interim visits may be needed after three months if a developing problem needs treatment. Bottle-fed infants and milk teeth require gum and jaw checkups for the examination bottle caries. Such problems, if not dealt with immediately, can lead to speech problems and cavities.

When the child reaches age 3, he or she will be ready for a full dental checkup. A child will typically receive its first  digital x-ray between the ages of 4 and 6, to check for cavities forming between teeth. Keep in mind, these digital      x-rays are safe for children and people of all ages. After the child reaches the age of 6, their milk teeth will fall and permanent teeth will begin to grow. Dentists often suggest a sealant during this time. This plastic resin is used for bonding the teeth’s chewing surface. It keeps cavity forming bacteria away from molars and tooth gaps.

The dentist is also able to examine a child’s jaw growth. This helps the dentist to determine if teeth will form in perfect alignment or if the child will require braces early life. Receiving braces early on will ensure that your child has a beautiful smile later in life.

Before your child’s first visit, please inform the dentist of any pre-existing medical conditions or medications taken. Keep in mind, the sooner your child visits the dentist after teething, the better.