When should your child first visit the dentist?

The American Dental Association and the American Academy of pediatric Dentitry both say that a child’s first dental visit should take place by either the first birthday or within 6 months of the first appearance of teeth, whichever is first.  Don’t wait for an emergency to arise.

Think of this as every bit as important as a normal well baby check –  you wouldn’t miss that, right?

Temporary Tooth Decay

There are some who feel that since a child’s first teeth are temporary, they aren’t important.

Nothing could be further from the truth…

A child’s first teeth will help the child chew and speak as well as act as placeholders for the permanent set of teeth.  Treatment of these temporary teeth, therefore, is critical.  Likewise, some believe that tooth decay in the temporary teeth is harmless, but experience has shown that tooth decay in temporary teeth means a higher risk of decay in the permanent teeth.  So it’s important to establish sound dental practices at a very early age.

The first dentist visit for your child

As adults, we can all understand the fear and uncertainty of that first visit for the young child and we should do everything we can to counter that and make it as pleasant as possible.  Your child should enjoy the visit and the chance to get to know the dentist and the staff.  This may sound odd for one year old, but as they child ages and returns to the same dentist over the years, it will pay off with less stressful and, therefore, more frequent visits.

It is encouraged to have a strong dialog with the child about any fears or questions he or she may have.  Parents should not treat the first visit as a big deal – it’s better to make it business as usual so the child develops the understanding that dentist visits are simply a way of life – nothing to celebrate and nothing to fear.   Of course, parents should avoid using words that may elevate the child’s anxiety such as “pain”, “shot” or “hurt” and instead explain the visit in terms of “healthy” and “strong”.  Also, it’s common sense (but not so common!!) that you should not bribe or threaten a child to get them to go to the dentist.

During the visit, the parent should try to let the child and the dentist form a strong bond.  Most experts recommend a “distant helper” approach here – let the child know you are there every step of the way and explain as needed, but let the dentist work with the child as much as possible so that bond can be formed.  Forming this bond will prove beneficial to everybody involved.

infographic childs first visit timeline