According to the American Dental Association, you should schedule your baby’s first dental visit as soon as they begin teething. This is most often around the six-month mark, though it can take longer. No matter when you see your child’s first tooth develop, you should take your toddler to the dentist by at least their first birthday.
When to Take a Toddler to the Dentist?
Dental health is important at any age, even for young children. Many parents find themselves wondering: at what age should a child go to the dentist for the first time? With toddlers, it’s always best to start dental care early, by 12 months.
Why Start so Early?
Parents who wonder when to take their toddler to the dentist are often surprised at early recommendations from doctors, dentists, and pediatricians. However, it’s important to note that tooth decay can affect as many as one in five children under the age of five. Even before their adult teeth set in, toddlers can suffer from issues ranging from cavities to root canals. A pediatric dentist can check for, identify, and treat any potential problems as early as possible.
Benefits of Early Dental Visits
Seeing a pediatric dentist can help to ensure your toddler’s teeth are clean and healthy after each visit. It also helps kids to develop a lifelong foundation for dental health and tooth care. Their dentist or hygienist can show them how to brush and floss effectively for a brighter smile.
Going to the dentist as a child may help to mitigate some of the fear that many adults have as they step into the dental chair. Over a third of the population have a fear of visiting the dentist, which can cause people to skip out on important maintenance and routine care. By making the dentist a positive experience in toddlerhood, you can help to reduce the chances of dental anxiety in adulthood.
Importance of Primary Teeth
There’s a common misconception amongst parents that baby teeth aren’t important because they fall out eventually. However, baby teeth are more important to early dental health than many may realize.
Baby teeth are essential when toddlers are learning to make the switch from liquid to solid food. Healthy teeth allow them to chew their food properly and maintain proper nutrition. Baby teeth also play an important role in jaw growth, saving space for larger adult teeth without crowding, as well as speech development.
Children with healthy baby teeth tend to be more confident and outgoing than their peers. When children feel good about the way they look, it can help to boost their self-esteem. A bright smile paves the road towards a positive self-image later in life.
Signs You Need to Take Your Toddler to the Dentist
Not all dental visits will necessarily be routine maintenance. Many new parents wonder: when should I worry about my toddler’s teeth?
The best way to know when to take your baby to the dentist is to look for signs of dental distress. Not all toddlers have the verbal abilities to voice when something is wrong, so it’s vital that parents keep a careful eye on symptoms such as toothaches, tooth sensitivity, and bleeding, swollen, or spotted gums. Clicking the jaw and sucking the lip might also indicate that your child is suffering from tooth discomfort.
Choosing a Pediatric Dentist
If you’re wondering when to take your toddler to the dentist for the first time, you’re probably also interested in finding the right pediatric dentist in your area.
A pediatric dentist is someone who specializes in care for young mouths. Unlike regular dentists, they have ample experience dealing with baby and toddler-related tooth issues. Most even have specially sized equipment to make each visit more comfortable. By taking your child to see a pediatric dentist, you can make each visit an exciting, positive experience that will set the stage for lifelong dental health.
How to Prepare for Your Toddler’s First Dental Visit?
If you’ve decided when to take your toddler to the dentist, the next step is preparing for your visit.
Even before you’ve scheduled your appointment, you should introduce light dental care at home. This will get children used to the idea of a daily dental routine and make the idea of visiting the dentist less frightening. Even babies without any teeth can benefit from gentle gum scrubbing after breastfeeding. Don’t use toothpaste with fluoride, however, as it can cause fluorosis as teeth are forming.
Once you’ve scheduled your visit, you can further prepare both you and your child by sitting down and explaining what to expect from a dental visit. You can show them videos or even share your own experiences to ease their anxiety. It’s also a good idea to fill out any paperwork and write down potential questions ahead of time so that you’re not overwhelmed on the day of the appointment.
What to Expect From Your Toddler’s First Dental Visit
The next question that most parents ask after “When should I take my child to the dentist?” is “What should I expect from the first visit?”
Your baby’s first visit with the dentist will mostly be to identify and diagnose any potential problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, jaw misalignment, and more. You’ll be in the room during this examination. Some dentists even prefer that parents hold young children to keep them calm and comfortable. After a routine exam, your dentist will give gums and teeth a light cleaning and answer any questions that you’ve prepared.
Tips for a Great First Visit
When you schedule a dentist visit with a young toddler, there are a couple of things that you can do to ensure that everything runs smoothly:
- Schedule your appointment during an active period of the day. If you take your toddler to the dentist during their usual naptime, they may be cranky and uncooperative.
- Give your child a light meal ahead of the visit to keep them full and happy, but make sure to brush their teeth afterward.
- Keeps snacks on hand after your visit is over.
- Reinforce good behavior with treats and prizes to make dentist visits an occasion to look forward to for kids.
As a parent, it’s natural to wonder: when should a baby first go to the dentist and why?
You should take your child to the dentist as soon as possible to ensure that they have a bright, healthy smile. Regular dental checkups in early childhood not only keep your toddler’s teeth clean but also encourage lifelong care.