Most parents are careful to keep up with regular well-baby visits, but when should you schedule your child’s first dental appointment? And what can you expect when you get there?
Experts agree that you should take your child to see the dentist by their first birthday, or within a few months of their first tooth’s arrival. Of course, you may want to consult a dentist sooner if you notice problems, such as discolored teeth or tender, bleeding gums.
In addition to general dentists, pediatric dentists may be an option for your child. They have specialized training in children’s oral health issues and may be better equipped to deal with nervous or fidgety children.
What to Expect
Early visits usually are short and sweet. A hygienist may clean your child’s teeth and apply a fluoride treatment. The dentist will take a look at your child’s teeth, gums and jaw. Finally, the dentist will talk to you and your child about the importance of good oral hygiene, stressing proper technique and healthy habits.
This is also a good opportunity for you to discuss any questions you may have regarding your child, including pertinent medical conditions and issues such as thumb-sucking.
Preparing Your Child
Even the most outgoing kids can get a little nervous at the dentist’s office. Here are some tips to help calm those nerves and make sure early visits go smoothly:
- Talk to your child before his or her appointment, but keep your message simple and positive. Explain that Dr. Smith wants to “count your teeth” or “check your smile.” There are also plenty of picture books available to help reassure and encourage your child.
- Answer young children’s questions, but don’t make false promises, such as “you won’t feel a thing” or “it won’t hurt a bit.”
- Take care to keep any negative feelings or fears that you may have about the dentist to yourself. Now is not the time to relive scary procedures from your own childhood.
- Follow the staff’s lead. Depending on the child’s age, they may ask you to hold your child on your lap, sit next to them during the exam, or stay in the waiting room. A good dentist will take care to make both mommy and child feel safe and relaxed.
- Ask your dentist or hygienist to demonstrate unfamiliar tools (such as the suction tube or spit bowl) to curious children.
- Some dentists will allow kids to choose a small prize at the end of the visit, but resist the urge to bribe your child for good behavior or promise special treats, especially sugary treats that may cause cavities.