A common question that many new parents have is, “At what age do I take my child to the dentist?” The answer? Your child should see the dentist for the first time by their first birthday. That may seem early, but considering that some children develop cavities before they’re age two, it’s not entirely outlandish. National studies have shown that 1 in 4 kids have a cavity by age 4! And decay in baby teeth actually increases the risk of having decay in their permanent teeth.
Finding a pediatric dentist
Pediatric dentists actually have additional schooling beyond the average dental degree. Working with children is completely different than working with adults! So even if you want to bring your child to your dentist for the sake of ease, it’s better to find a dedicated pediatric dentist in your area. They’ll have a more kid friendly environment, and the sight of other children may put your child at ease.
What happens at the first dental visit?
The first dentist visit is important because it’s going to evaluate your child’s risk for cavities. There is usually very little treatment. They’ll examine your child’s bite, check for decay, and look for potential gum, jaw, teeth, or other oral issues. If needed, they’ll do a teeth cleaning, and determine whether or not your child needs fluoride.
Depending on the dentist, you may be asked to hold your child, or wait in the waiting room. The ultimate goal is to build up a relationship between child and dentist – that way they aren’t scared of going to the dentist, a problem that affects up to 75% of adults! Their dentist will also cover some topics with you, including:
- How to properly care for your baby/toddler’s mouth
- How to properly use fluoride
- Ways to prevent accidents that could damage their teeth
- What oral habits to watch out for and curb (thumb/finger sucking)
- Teething milestones
- Link between oral health and a proper diet
After the assessment, the dentist will set up a schedule for visits. It will depend on the state of your child’s teeth and if they are at risk for any dental issues. Typically, children should be seen every 6 months. As time goes on, that schedule may change.
In between visits, make sure to care properly for your child’s teeth. If they’re under age 8, you should help them with their teeth cleaning. Need to find a dentist for your child? Visit the AAPD website.