Ask any new parent when their child’s first visit to the pediatrician should be, and they’ll say, “The first doctor’s visit should be right now!” And they will be right. Many new parents schedule this first visit soon after giving birth.
But if you ask the same parent when their child’s first visit to the dentist should be, it might not be so sure.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend scheduling the baby’s first dentist appointment no later than their first birthday.
The AAP has recommended this standard since 2003, although most patients tell me their pediatricians are not familiar with this ten-year-old guideline for dental care.
If you haven’t taken your child to the dentist by 12 months of age, you’re not alone. A 2015 study showed that only 1% of nearly 95,000 children had their first dental visit before the age of one. And a 2018 survey found that one in six parents didn’t know when to schedule a child’s first dentist appointment.
Your baby’s first dentist appointment is an opportunity to establish a “dental home” for your child, which AAPD defines as an “ongoing relationship between dentist and patient, including all aspects of dental care. oral health care provided in a comprehensive and accessible environment at all times. , coordinated and family-centered. ”Much like a nursing home, your child’s dental home will be a constant anchor for their general health throughout their childhood.
An early visit to the dentist is also a chance to recognize, diagnose, and hopefully prevent tooth decay. Although preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, according to the CDC, four times more common than asthma. Studies show that early visits to the dentist lead to fewer future cavities and lower treatment costs.
But there are many other things to look for in a child’s mouth besides cavities.
What to expect at baby’s first dentist appointment
At your child’s first appointment, a dentist will do a full examination of their entire mouth. This means that we not only look at the teeth, but also the gums, the soft tissues of the mouth, the developing jaws – we even assess the child’s airways. And of course, the dentist or hygienist will also perform a dental cleaning and, if it is suitable for your child, apply fluoride to prevent the development of cavities.
Parents’ guide for the first dentist appointment
One of the most important parts of these early dental appointments is parenting education as well. Your dentist may ask you how much juice your child drinks, or if he falls asleep with a bottle, sucks his thumb, or uses a pacifier, and how often.
Other topics your child’s dentist will probably want to discuss with you:
- Good oral hygiene at home
- Diet recommendations to help prevent cavities
- Stop “non-nutritious” oral habits, such as pacifier use
- How to calm a teething child
- Differences in fluoride levels in municipal, well and bottled water
- How Mouth Development Affects Speech Patterns
- When baby teeth should fall out and permanent teeth come in
- What to do in case of dental trauma
- How to recognize sleep apnea in children
While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of what the first appointment might involve, the main goal of this visit is to provide your child with a pleasant first dental experience and to help you get on with it. feel empowered as a parent to keep your child’s mouth healthy.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to schedule your child’s first dental appointment.
After making that first appointment, to prepare your child for their first visit, the most important thing you can do is start talking positively about the dentist. Children who are afraid of dentists usually learn these fears from adults.
Children’s brains are like sponges, and they’re good at picking up signals. Show your kids that you love going to the dentist. Take them with you when you go. Sit them on your knees in the dentist’s chair. And smile!
A version of this article was originally published in 2017; it has been updated.
dentist, dental health, toddler advice, doctor visits, mom, toddler, play, positive parenting