Approximately 42% of American children aged between 2 and 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth.
Part of the reason for this worrying statistic is the fact that many parents neglect their children’s oral care. They think that baby teeth don’t need much care since they’ll eventually fall off.
What they don’t know, however, is that primary teeth set the foundation for permanent ones. The healthier your child’s primary teeth, the better the development of their permanent teeth.
This begs a critical question: “when should your baby go to the dentist?”
More importantly, how often should you take your child for check-ups after their first dentist visit?
Read on to find out.
When Should Your Child Go to the Dentist for the First Time?
A child’s teeth start forming before birth. Teeth development continues until the baby teeth start showing at 4 to 6 months of age.
This is the optimal first dentist visit age.
As soon as the first tooth erupts through the gums, you should begin oral care.
At this stage, you can introduce your child to dental care by gently brushing their teeth (with a baby toothbrush) on a daily basis. You should also begin scheduling dental appointments.
Starting dental care at a young age will keep your child’s primary teeth healthy, and maintain them until they’re lost naturally.
This is important as primary teeth serve the following functions:
- They help your child chew properly so they can maintain good nutrition
- They help in speech development
- They guide the permanent teeth into the right position
- They promote a healthy smile, which nurtures a positive body image. This builds self-esteem and confidence at a young age.
What Should You Expect for Your Kid’s First Dentist Visit?
First dentist visits are mostly about familiarizing children with the dentists’ chair and enlightening parents on how to take care of babies’ teeth.
That said, you should expect the dentist to perform a few oral examinations on your kid.
Specifically, the pediatric dentist will examine your child’s jaws and teeth to ensure that they’re developing in the right manner. They’ll also check the mouth cavity for injuries, oral infections, or any other issues.
Once the examination is over, they’ll clean your kid’s teeth and give you personalized dental care tips.
During the exam, the oral specialist will ask you to sit on the dentist’s chair with your kid on your lap. This will help your child feel more comfortable, and prevent them from wiggling during the exam. Given that this is a new experience for your kid, they may cry or get nervous.
To prevent this, you’ll need to prepare your child in advance for the exam, which brings us to the next part of our discussion: preparing for your kid’s first dentist visit.
How to Calm Your Child’s First Dental Exam Jitters?
If you introduce your child to the dentist before their first birthday, chances are they’ll be too young to get nervous. But if you’ve already waited until your child is 2 years or older, they’ll definitely be anxious.
In this case, you can make use of the following tips:
1. Give Them a Preview
When going for your regular check-ups, let your child tag along so they can see you getting your teeth examined. This will familiarize your kid with the dentist’s surroundings in a non-threatening way.
Play around with your child by taking turns being the patient and the dentist. Count each other’s teeth or examine them using a mirror.
This will allow your child to get used to the feeling of a dental exam, which will calm him/her down during the actual examination.
3. Teach Them About Oral Health
There are tons of books and websites dedicated to teaching children about dental visits and general oral hygiene.
With these books, they’ll learn a lot about their teeth through fun stories and activities, which will help them understand the importance of dental examinations.
4. Plan Accordingly
Schedule your kid’s dentist appointment such that the visit isn’t rushed, and ensure that your kid is well-rested prior to the visit. This will help them relax, feel comfortable, and reduce nervousness.
5. Reward Them With a Snack
On the day of their exam, let your kid have a light meal so they don’t get hungry during the process —hunger increases anxiety.
After the meal, brush their teeth and prevent them from snacking until the visit is over so they don’t have food particles on their teeth. Afterward, buy them a few snacks as a reward for keeping their composure during the visit.
Keep in mind that these few preparations aren’t all you can do. You know your kid best. Feel free to add anything to this list to make them more comfortable.
And, if your kid gets upset during the dental exam, work with the dentist to calm him/her down in a non-threatening way.
How Often Should You Take Your Kid for Dental Check-Ups?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends biannual oral check-ups for children after the first exam.
The two yearly visits allow pediatric dentists to track your kid’s dental development, monitor any changes in their gum and teeth, as well as provide ongoing education on the best oral care strategies.
The dentist may recommend additional visits for kids who’re particularly susceptible to dental caries or those with early symptoms of orthodontic complications.
Who Can You Trust With Your Child’s Teeth?
Whether you’re looking to schedule a first dentist visit or arrange for regular check-ups, you’ll want the whole experience to be educational and enjoyable for you and your little one.
When it comes to anxiety-free pediatric oral care, Brushin’ On Belmont is the best in the greater Chicago area.
We strive to nurture a positive attitude towards dental care from a young age so your kid can grow up with a glowing, healthy smile. Our treatments are tailored to each child’s specific needs to enable us to draw up a dental care plan that suits you and your child.
Contact us to schedule an appointment.