One of the joys of parenting is watching as children experience a lifetime of firsts. Their first words, their first day of school or even the first time they ride a bike. When parents look back at these memories, they seldom think of a very important childhood first: Taking the kids to the dentist for the first time.
When it comes to health care, parents want to do the right thing for their kids. Obviously, this includes making sure they have proper dental care. However, even though parents know that taking their children to the dentist is important, many put it off because they are unsure of what age to take their children to the dentist. Is it when the first tooth erupts or when they start school? How old should they be?
Questions like these can make parents feel anxious. However, they should know that the sooner they begin dental care for their kids the healthier their teeth will be as they grow up.
The Importance of Getting Kids to the Dentist
Dental professionals recommend scheduling checkups in young children as a way to prevent tooth decay and cavities at an early age. This is important because the most common chronic disease affecting kids in the United States is tooth decay. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 42 percent of American children suffer from some form of tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten.
Parents thinking about getting their kids to the dentist are reminded that it is an important step in caring for their primary teeth and overall health. Taking kids to the dentist is also important because it gives parents a chance to discuss dental developmental milestones and potential future problems, like a bad bite or misaligned jaw.
Primary Teeth: What to Know
For parents, the arrival of that first tooth is pretty exciting. Besides celebrating another first in their child’s life, this special occasion also serves as the beginning of their path to good dental health.
Once the first tooth erupts to the surface, parents should begin thinking about caring for primary (or ‘baby’) teeth. Vital in developing chewing, smiles, and speech, they help children with the orla development of teeth, gums and jaws until primary teeth grow in.
Timing Is Everything
Most dentists agree that taking kids to the dentist at an early age is important. They suggest that a child’s first visit to a dentist occur between the eruption of their first tooth and their first birthday.
Dentists also suggest making an appointment sooner rather than later because children will use their primary teeth until around their sixth birthday, at which time their permanent teeth will start to come in. Unfortunately, by this time, many kids have already accumulated a build-up of sugary foods, juices, soda, and milk that has settled into gums and baby teeth, leading to cavities and tooth decay.
This risk of cavities and decay makes treating baby teeth even more important because they help form the foundation of healthy teeth and train youngsters on the value of practicing good oral hygiene. Proper care of primary teeth also ensures that the permanent teeth growing underneath them are also free of decay.
Scheduling the First Visit
Just because a child has yet to form all of their primary teeth is not a reason to avoid scheduling their first dental visit. Booking regular appointments helps dentists measures the progress of growing teeth while also relieving any unease parents may have about their kids’ oral health.
Here are some helpful tips for scheduling an appointment
- Find a family friendly dentist
- Schedule the appointment
- Set a reminder for the appointment
- Prepare children for the appointment
What to Look for in a Dentist
Choosing dental care for a child is not an easy decision. In many instances, finding a dentist who can calm fidgety and frightened tots is tricky. With this in mind it is especially important to find a dentist that is a good fit for them and their parents.
Although parents are urged to visit a dentist at an early age, finding a new provider may be challenging. Here are some things that parents should consider when looking for their dental care.
- Find a dentist who can create a positive relationship with young children that can last into their adolescence.
- Seek a dentist with a good reputation. Review their credentials, read reviews online, and ask for recommendations from family, other parents or dental professionals.
- Search for a dentist who is patient and accustomed to working with kids.
- Ask prospective dentists questions about their practice and the services they provide.
- While engaging a possible new dentist parents should try and measure if they feel comfortable having them care for their kids.
- Don’t rush to judgements. Ask questions to establish if the dentist is the right person for the job. Inquire about how they treat their patients.
Choosing Between a Family Dentist or a Pediatric Dentist
For many parents the decision of deciding when to take their kids to the dentist often involves deciding on choosing which type of practice they prefer, a family dentist or a pediatric one. While both give great options to parents who are concerned about their kids’ dental health, they each provide different services that should be considered when selecting treatment.
Visiting a Family Dentist
In general, many dentists operate practices that treat both adults and children. These practices provide general dental examinations and treatment while offering patients the convenience of having an entire family treated by one dentist. Because they are offer general range of services, they are often a more affordable option.
Visiting a Pediatric Dentist
While family practices are a perfectly safe option for treatment, many parents prefer the more specialized treatment provided by a pediatric dentist.
Specifically trained to treat kids from infancy to their teen years, pediatric dentists regularly use smaller dental instruments specifically designed for younger patients. This allows them to better treat areas of smaller mouths that regular dental tools often cannot reach. Knowing that their little patients are sometimes scared or apprehensive about their visit, pediatric dentists take great care in making their young visitors comfortable. Featuring offices that are friendly, warm and inviting helps them put kids at ease, making their treatment a much more pleasant experience.
Preparing Children For Their First Visit
Parents planning to take their kids to a dentist are urged to prepare themselves and their children for their first visit. Here are some helpful tips for making that first trip a calm experience.
Be positive. Since children will notice reservations and anxiety parents are reminded to stay upbeat and relaxed about the appointment. Create an environment for children by telling them that their dentist is a new friend who wants to help them stay healthy.
Another way to prepare a child for their first visit is to have them brush their teeth and gums before the visit. This reinforces the value of oral hygiene and makes it easier for a dental hygienist to examine them.
Telling children what they can anticipate during their first visit is a great way to prepare them for seeing a dentist.for the first time. If they are nervous ask an older sibling for help in assuring them that seeing the dentist is a fun new adventure.
Because new experiences can frighten children, parents are advised to bring along a few toys to play with or favorite books to read in the waiting room. This will help younger patients feel less apprehensive about seeing a dentist.
Keeping Kids Teeth and Gums Clean Starts Early
Just as important as deciding when to take kids to the dentist is maintaining good oral hygiene at home. Because babies can get cavities too, it is important that parents care for their teeth at an early age.
Since teething in infants generally starts within the first six months, babies often frequently get red or inflamed gums. Treating this can be done by giving the baby a freshly chilled teething ring or rubbing their gums gently with a cold washcloth. Parents are also reminded that they should always clean their infant’s gums after feeding.
Even though they eventually fall out, baby teeth are important and should be cleaned like permanent teeth. After the eruption of their first tooth continue to massage their gums and begin brushing (without toothpaste) teeth with a children’s soft toothbrush.
Dentists also urge parents to regularly check for cavities, they suggest lifting both lips gently and looking for the appearance of spots on their teeth. If cavities are noticed a dentist should be contacted for treatment.
Making that first trip to the dentist is an important milestone for establishing dental health in children.To find a dentist in your area, use our online search tool.