Dental and medical professionals recommend that a child visit the dentist by his or her first birthday or within 6 months after the first tooth comes in.
Baby teeth are important. Sometimes parents believe that “they’re just going to fall out anyway,” so regular dental care is not needed. This is false, and dangerous for your child. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) maintains that primary (“baby”) teeth should stay in place until they are lost naturally, so it’s important to keep them healthy. It’s also important to acclimate young children to the dentist’s office to prevent fears from developing. Healthy primary teeth lead to healthy permanent teeth and lifelong oral health.
The first dental visit is usually short and sweet. There’s very little to do or treat, but it’s vital that the child have this early exposure to the dentist’s office. The child will have a chance to meet the dentist in a friendly, non-scary atmosphere, and will leave with pleasant memories and a positive impression of “going to the dentist.”
During the exam the dentist will check all of your child’s teeth for decay, examine his or her bite, and look for any potential problems. If your child has many teeth they may be cleaned, and the dentist will assess the need for fluoride. Finally, the dentist will discuss the basics of oral hygiene for growing children, and answer any questions you may have.
Why a Pediatric Dentist?
Dr. Jacobs, like any pediatric dentist, has at least two additional years of training beyond dental school focused on pediatric dental concerns, child behavior, and other special needs of children’s dentistry. Dr. Jacobs and our staff are all 100% focused on caring for the teeth and oral health of children; our office is brightly decorated and geared towards the comfort of children, and we work with little ones every day.
How to Calm a Fearful Child
If you begin taking your child to the dentist at age 1, he or she will be too young to feel nervous. This is one reason it’s so important to begin early. But a 2- or 3-year-old child may very well come into the unfamiliar environment with some trepidation. Noisy machinery, sharp instruments, and a stranger looming over his or her face can all contribute to this feeling of unease.
Here are some ways to help ease those concerns and prepare your child for the first dental visit:
Offer a sneak peek. Bring your child with you to your next checkup to see what happens, and show him or her that it doesn’t hurt.
Role-play. Play “dentist” with your child at home; take turns being the dentist and examine each other’s teeth, using a mirror or clean fingers. Count your child’s teeth and touch each one, to familiarize him or her with the feeling of a dental exam.
Read all about it. There are many good books and online resources geared towards helping children learn about the dentist and oral health. Visit your local library or search the internet for some of these resources, and share them with your child.
Time it right. Be sure your child is rested before the appointment, and that you’ve planned plenty of time so the visit won’t be rushed. Take steps to make sure your child feels relaxed and comfortable before you arrive.
Communicate. Finally, be sure to communicate with our office if your child has any special needs or particular fears. We want to be your teammates in making your child’s dental home a calm, comfortable place, and will take specific steps to work with your child if you let us know what he or she needs.