A first dental visit can be a big moment for kids, as the experience can set the stage for good oral health care throughout their lifetimes.
That’s one of the reasons why The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AADP) recommends that a child goes to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after their first tooth appears (when the primary teeth begin growing). Unfortunately, many parents find this timeline to be difficult (if not impossible).
For example, the average age for first time dental visits for children is actually around 2.6 years, with many children not going to the dentist until much later (if at all in some cases).
Given the different ages kids find themselves meeting their dentists for the first time, it’s no surprise one of the most commonly asked questions dental professionals receive (both dental practitioners and dental hygienists) is in regards to when a parent should take their child to the dentist for the first time. While opinions (and research) will differ, there’s no denying that good oral health care for kids starts at an early age as the benefits can last a lifetime.
Why Are Primary Teeth Important?
While many believe that primary teeth are not important to long term oral care, these “baby teeth” are actually critical in many areas such as chewing (digestion) and as any parent can tell you, a great smile that will light up a room!
When the baby teeth, or primary teeth, are lost at too early of an age the permanent teeth behind them can move or grow in the empty space. This has the potential to cause misalignment issues of the teeth as the child matures, which can lead to more severe dental problems in the future.
This ultimately means that the earlier you can get a child in to see a pediatric dentist, the better their chances will be of having a great dental experience over their lifetime.
Still Nervous About Your First Dental Visit?
It’s normal for children (and their parents) to be nervous or have some general level of anxiety about their visit, but there are some steps that help make sure everyone has a great experience.
The first and best advice is to simply talk to your kids and show them what’s actually involved in going to the dentist. Have kids tag along during your own visit and they’ll quickly see how safe and even fun it can be.
- There are many books and resources online that provide parents with the opportunity to help children understand what happens before, during and after a first dental visit.
- Schedule appointments at the best time of day for your child. Just like adults, some children are more open and agreeable in the morning while others do better in the afternoon.
- Make it enjoyable! There’s nothing that can reduce the anxiety of a first dental visit better than having a good time. Learn a few tooth jokes, or have your kids memorize the names of their teeth and the different parts of their mouth.
Great oral healthcare is essential. While the decision is up to you as the parent or caregiver to decide on the right time to take your child for their first visit, the advancements in technology are doing wonders for pediatric dentistry.