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When Should a Child First Visit the Dentist?

It is recommended that a child’s first dental visit should be when their first tooth becomes visible or by their first birthday – whichever comes first.

While this may seem early and your child may not have many teeth yet, this visit allows your child to become familiar with the dentist and the dental environment and enables the dentist to check for early signs of dental problems. 

Why bring your child to the dentist early on?

Get to know the dentist and avoid dental fear

The first dental visit is meant to be a fun and positive experience for your child so  they look forward to future  visits. This helps the child become more comfortable and want to see the dentist before any dental pain exists.

Early dental visits will help them become familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells of the dentist and the dental environment. Subsequent visits are about gradually introducing new things such as gentle cleans and low-dose x-rays (as required) to your child at their own pace and building comfort and confidence in your child.

Early detection of potential dental problems

The dentist can check the growth and development of your child’s teeth, jaws, bite, gums, and oral tissues to identify any potential problems early on. This includes identifying variations in the timing or sequence of teeth eruption, defects in the tooth enamel (which indicate a greater susceptibility to tooth decay), certain habits which may cause malalignment of teeth and problems with the bite, and problems with the gums and tissues (which may affect feeding and cleaning).

Anticipatory guidance and advice

The dentist can give you advice on what to expect next  for the dental development for your child. For example, which tooth will erupt next, when you can expect your child to have their full set of baby teeth and when they can expect a visit from the tooth fairy.

It also provides you with the best opportunity to ask any questions you may have such as how to keep your child’s teeth and gums clean, what sort of foods and drinks to avoid to prevent tooth decay, and how to help your child give up their pacifier or thumb sucking habits. 

What happens at your child’s first dental visit?

The first visit usually involves a comprehensive check-up with low-dose x-rays, if needed. Some children may feel more comfortable sitting on their parent’s lap in the dental chair whereas others may want their parents close by during the check-up. If needed, your child may also have a gentle cleaning to remove any plaque or stains.  

It is important to inform the dentist of any medical condition or past incidents which may affect your child’s behaviour and ability to cope. If your child is apprehensive or fearful of new things, everything can be shown and explained beforehand. If they have had a past negative medical or dental experience, there is always the opportunity for them to be in control by asking questions or taking short breaks. They can set the pace or extent of the dental visit.

How to prepare for your child’s dental visit

Here are some tips on how you can best prepare for your child’s first dental visit

  • Make the dental appointment an accepted part of a regular routine and not a special event or a punishment for not caring after teeth.
  • Allow your child to visit the dentist when you or the older siblings go for their dental check-ups.
  • Talk about the good things about visiting the dentist, such as counting teeth and learning how to care for them.
  • Do not use words such as drill and needle. The dentist will use special child-friendly words to explain things to your child.
  • Arrive a little early so that your child can become familiar with the new surroundings.
  • Encourage and praise your child for being good during the dental visit.
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