When Should Your Child Have Their First Dental Visit?

When Should Your Child Have Their First Dental Visit?

Surveys have shown that most kids in the U.S. don’t have their first dental visit until well after the age of two. On average, children are close to three years old before their initial visit. This is far later than recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). The AAPD and ADA both recommend that children be examined by a dentist by age one, or soon after the first tooth erupts.

Baby Teeth Are Important Too

Children who don’t visit a dentist regularly or have never had an oral exam may be thought to be too young, or don’t have enough teeth to warrant a visit to the dentist yet. But, dental care should start early to monitor the growth of their baby and eventually permanent adult teeth.

Baby, or primary, teeth are in use until they are pushed out by adult teeth. Baby teeth are important for a variety of reasons:

  • Children need healthy primary teeth to bite and chew properly.
  • Oral health plays a role in speech development.
  • Baby teeth are space savers for permanent teeth.
  • A healthy smile helps boost good self-esteem at a young age.

Overcoming Dental Anxiety

Toddlers who are introduced to their dental care professional for the first time after or before they reach a year old are likely too young to feel anxiety. However, if you wait and bring an older child of two or older, there may be some nervous feelings.

  • Taking your child with you during your routine checkup is helpful. This allows him or her the opportunity to witness your teeth cleaning and exam. It is also a good time for them to ask you or the dentist any questions.
  • Find out more information about pediatric dental care. Research online sources or check out your local library. There are countless resources geared toward educating children on dentist visits and oral health. You can use tools like fun activity sheets, stories, and illustrations.
  • Role play with your child and take turns being the patient and the dentist. Use a mirror to examine each other’s teeth and gums. This will give your child an idea of what a dental exam feels like to reduce any of their uneasiness.

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