Being a regular attendee of the dentist’s office is a trait that should be implanted during early childhood. It all comes down to that first dental visit. If your first dental visit was pleasant, then the rest of your life’s experience will be just as pleasant. That responsibility falls to your dentist, and how he handles your child’s first dental visit. However, there is a part that falls to you, the parent, and that is selecting the best time for your child’s first dental visit, as well as choosing the right pediatric dentistry specialist who is well equipped to handle such a tremendous milestone in your child’s life. So do you ever wonder “When should my child first see a dentist?” .. We’re here to help you answer that question.
How Important Is Your Child’s First Dental Visit?
Dental fear is a global phenomenon. In fact, more than 80% of the world’s population fear going to the dentist, and most of these people can trace that fear to a traumatic experience that happened during their first few dental visits. In that sense, the child’s first dental visit makes all the difference. It is the trendsetter, the milestone, the path paver for the rest of your child’s life. Pediatric dentists are well aware of that fact, and all of them are trained to handle that epic moment.
When Should My Child First See A Dentist?
Your child’s first dental visit should coincide with the first tooth that appears in their mouth. Usually, baby teeth start to appear between 6 and 8 months of age. The first trip to the dentist should be around that time. You might think that age too young to actually understand what’s going on, and you’d be right. Nevertheless, that first visit around that age is incredibly important in shaping the child’s memory of the dental office and making him\her realize that the dentist will be a big and constant part of their lives.
During that visit, no actual treatment will be done. Your dentist will just introduce himself to you and your child and make them acquainted with the office, the staff, and the setting. He would also check if the teething process is proceeding normally, or if there are any anomalies with the bones or gums.
When Should My Child First See A Dentist For Actual Treatment?
Now we get to the real talk. Yes technically the first visit should be around 6 to 8 months when the first tooth appears, but that age is too tender to do any actual treatment (unless of course there is an emergency or trauma). The actual first visit for some real treatment should be around 2 to 3 years of age. By that time, your child has developed enough to understand where they are, and who they’re dealing with. They are more willing to accept the dentist’s advice and treatment. In many ways, that visit – although not technically the first – is more important than the first one at 6 months of age.
What Happens During That Visit?
When we say “treatment”, we don’t mean actual procedures such as fillings (unless needed). Here are some examples of what happens:
Teaching your child the correct way to brush their teeth:
Of course, they should already be doing it with your guidance, but coming from a dentist, the effect is much more profound.
Educating your child about teething, its sequence, and what to expect:
By the age of 2 years, all of the baby teeth have already come in. The baby teeth would start falling out and become replaced with adult teeth at around 6 years and will continue that process until 12 or 13 years.
Checking for habits and trying to break them early:
Some of the childhood habits could have a detrimental effect on your child’s dental health, such as thumb sucking or sleeping with the feeding bottle. Your dentist can detect the early effects of these habits and try to stop them.
Modeling of actual dental procedures:
Your dentist would use toys and models to show your child how simple procedures – not the fearful ones – such as cleaning and simple fillings are done. That way, if your child needs them in the future, they’d know what to expect.
Teaching the child how to prevent trauma:
Falling and hitting their face is a part of the child’s job description. You can’t really prevent your child from falling, but you – together with the dentist – can teach them what to do if that happens. How to immediately deal with the trauma and going to see the dentist as soon as it happens may be what saves the tooth.
Although not really your dentist’s area of expertise, but pediatric dentists are well trained to give nutritional advice. They would recommend some foods and drinks to strengthen the teeth and bones such as milk and yogurt, as well as staying away from some decay-causing ones such as sweets and ketchup.
Some Advice For You – The Parent – Before Your Child’s First Dental Visit
We know how anxious you are about that visit. However, you must not transfer your anxiety to your child. Here are some pieces of advice to prepare for that visit:
- Try and control your own anxiety and not show it to the child. They copy and mirror everything we do.
- Do not use the dental visit as a punishment. That act alone is responsible for most cases of children’s dental fears.
- Don’t use bribes. They will forever see that visit as a way to get sweets or any other form of compensation when they should be learning how beneficial it is to them.
- Don’t use the word “hurt” in any sense. Telling your child “This won’t hurt” actually has a negative effect on their behavior. They become more fearful and more expecting of pain than they should.
So there you have it, the answer to the lifelong question of “when should my child first see a dentist” and all the associated information to make your future dental visits – hopefully – easier. If you need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Scott Schwartz and his amazing team. We are more than happy to receive your child and try to shape his\her dental future. You can find us at 1 Baltic Place, Croton On Hudson, NY 10520, or call us on (914) 271-6224.