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What’s the best age to make your child’s first dentist appointment?

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child’s first dentist visit

Parents need to know that even very young children can get cavities. This is why establishing a “dental home” for your child by age one is essential to ensure their oral health needs are in good hands.

Making your child’s first dentist visit a positive experience is very important. However, deciding when to make that first appointment can be confusing. Rufe Snow Dental Team explains how to make sure that your child’s first dental visit is a positive experience.

Your child’s first dental appointment

The purpose of your child’s first dentist visit is to make your child feel more comfortable and familiar with dental appointments.

Unfortunately, parents tend to wait until the age of 4 or 5 before they take their children to the dentist for their first visit. This happens because many parents are unaware of dental problems that may occur once the first tooth comes out. Babies and toddlers cannot express what they feel, and parents may draw wrong conclusions regarding any discomfort their children experience. Postponing the first dentist visit means that children’s teeth may become more prone to cavities.

What does the AAPD recommend?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends scheduling the initial dental visit within six months of the first tooth or by age one, whichever comes first, even if no teeth have come out yet.  During this initial visit, parents receive information on proper oral hygiene techniques and nutrition advice for their children. The dentist will also assess the development of the teeth and mouth and provide anticipatory guidance for any potential problems that may occur in the future. Establishing a “dental home” early helps to ensure that any issues can be detected and addressed before they become serious problems.

Making it a positive experience

The hard work is to find a child-friendly dental clinic and prepare your child for the first dental appointment.

It is natural for children (and parents) to be anxious about their first dental visit. But there are several steps you can follow to ensure it is as positive as possible:

  • Take some time to explain to your child what will happen during their visit. Parents should use terms children understand, like cleaning and counting teeth, instead of unfamiliar words like examination or x-ray. 
  • Read books with them about going to the dentist so they learn what to expect in a fun way! 
  • Search the internet for various ways that show children why it is necessary to care for their teeth and help them visualize what it will be like.
  • Show enthusiasm yourself; if you act nervous or scared, it will only make them more anxious too. 
  • Bring along their favorite stuffed animal or comfort item so they feel safe and comfortable during their appointment.
  • It may also be required for parents to get prepared for their child’s first dentist visit as well. Parents can write down any medications their child may be taking and talk openly with their dentist about any concerns regarding their child’s oral health care needs. 
  • Reward your child after each successful appointment with a special treat, a new toothbrush, or a new toy! 

What to expect at your child’s first dental appointment?

Your child’s pediatric dentist will examine your child’s teeth. The dentist will look for signs of tooth cavities and any other issues which may require special care.  When a cavity is detected early, it can be treated and prevent more serious issues from occurring later on.

The dentist will also ask about your child’s eating habits and suggest a healthy diet for strong and healthy teeth. Many foods and drinks affect children’s oral health. For this reason, the AAPD advises avoiding drinking juice from a bottle or sippy cup and sugary snacks.  Starchy foods should also be avoided, as they cause cavities to develop.

An early dentist visit can also help detect and avoid possible problems with the gums, space between teeth, or teeth alignment that might affect the adult teeth or require early orthodontic treatment.

Taking care of your child’s oral health needs from a young age is essential for lifelong good health. Scheduling your child’s first dental appointment around age one is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). But it can still be stressful for both parents and children if not handled properly! Taking some steps, such as those Rufe Snow Dental Team advises, is a great way to ensure your child’s first dental experience is as positive as possible! With the right preparation and attitude, your child will have a lifetime of healthy smiles to show for it!

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