Every parent wonders, “When Should My Child First See a Dentist?” The American Dental Association (ADA) says that a child’s first dental visit should be when they get their first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) adds that it should be not later than the child’s first birthday.
The Importance of Dental Care for Young Children
One of the most common childhood diseases is tooth decay. Untreated cavities (also called caries) may cause pain, infections, and other seemingly unrelated illnesses. Cavities can also lead to speaking, eating, and learning problems.
Poor oral health can cause a child to miss school, leading to lower grades. There are plenty of statistics available. In children aged 5 to 11 years old, approximately 1 out of 5 (20 percent) has an untreated cavity. From ages 12 to 17, the numbers lower to 1 in 7 (13 percent).
Additionally, children in low-income families have a higher likelihood (about 25 percent) of caries than those from higher-income families (about 11 percent). Other factors that increase a child’s potential for cavities are:
- Special health care needs or medications
- Diet consisting of sugary foods and drinks
- Have braces or other orthodontic appliances
- Family members have cavities
Good oral health habits started at an early age can assist your child in remaining cavity-free. The center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even offer coloring books to help children understand the importance of oral hygiene.
What to Expect at Your Child’s First Dental Visit
Your child will usually sprout their first tooth between six months and one year of age. It is recommended that children begin seeing a dentist regularly shortly after the first tooth or by the first birthday. There are several reasons to begin children early:
- To form good oral care habits
- Ensure that tooth growth progresses normally
- Avoid cavities and other dental problems
- Get children accustomed to regular dental checkups
Your child’s first dental visit will help your child feel comfortable. This visit normally lasts around 30 to 45 minutes. Some of the things to expect from the doctor are:
- Examination of the teeth, gums, bite, jaws, and general growth and development
- Gentle cleaning
- Lessons on proper oral care
Most dentists will not take X-rays unless the visual examination gives them a reason for concern.
How to Prepare Your Child (And Yourself) for Their First Dental Visit
Preparing for a first dental visit will help your child become accustomed to the routine. It is normally best to schedule appointments as early in the day as possible. Children are more rested in the mornings.
If your child is a toddler or older child, explain what a dentist is and why this is important. Try to stay upbeat and positive. If you have dental anxiety, try not to convey these feelings to your child. As a parent, if you are calm, your child will remain calm also.
Be prepared to discuss your child’s medical and health history. Some factors, such as premature birth and jaundice can affect dental health.
During your appointment, the dentist may offer you information on a variety of topics including:
- Infant feeding
- Bottle feeding and tooth decay
- Teething pain
- Pacifiers, finger, and thumb sucking
If you have questions, please feel free to ask the doctor or technician. They are happy to share their knowledge with parents and to promote good oral care for children.
Teaching Your Child How to Brush Properly
Teaching your child to brush properly begins before they have teeth. Using a clean, soft cloth, you should wipe their gums gently at least twice daily. The CDC recommends that this be done after the first in the morning and again before bed. This wipes away harmful bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities.
Once your child has teeth, brush with a soft toothbrush using plain water. Infant toothbrushes are specifically designed to be gentle, but effective in tiny mouths.
As your child grows, teach them to brush on their own, with supervision. Use a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste and be sure that your child is rinsing and spitting rather than swallowing. Help until your child develops good technique.
Fluoride Is Good for Your Child’s Teeth
Children benefit greatly from tap water with fluoride. To check the fluoride in your municipal water supply, the CDC has an easy-to-use database called My Water’s Fluoride. If your community is not listed, you may request a copy of the water department’s current “Consumer Confidence Report.” The report lists the level of fluoridation in the tap water for your community.
If your water does not have an adequate fluoride level, you can discuss dental sealants and fluoride treatments with your dentist.
Do Young Childen Need to Floss?
It is recommended to begin flossing when your child has two teeth that are close together. This will happen at different times for each child because every smile is unique. Generally, by the time a child is between 2 and 3 years old, they should be learning to floss.
Most children will not master flossing until they are around 10 years old. Before then, using pre-threaded flossing tools can help. The tools are smaller and fit better in little mouths than adult fingers using standard floss thread.
When Should Your Child See an Orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have an examination by an orthodontist no later than age seven. The reasoning behind this age suggestion is based on average tooth growth.
Between six and seven, most of a child’s primary (baby) teeth have fallen out and several of their adult teeth are in place or positioned to erupt. Using X-rays and digital images, an orthodontist can predict potential problems with alignment, bite, and jaw size.
If no problems are noted, your child might be placed into a monitoring program. This allows the orthodontist to perform periodic checkups to monitor growth and make sure that erupting teeth have ample room along the jaw. Most children will not require early treatment.
For children that require early intervention or Phase 1 Treatment, the orthodontist can use their natural growth patterns to guide alignment and jaw growth.
Ensuring Great Oral Health for Children
At Goldkind Family Ortho we offer compassionate orthodontic care for your entire family. From the first visit, Dr. Michael Goldkind will work with families to ensure great oral care and awesome smiles! Please call one of our offices to speak with an Appointment Coordinator to schedule your first visit:
Morristown office: 973-538-5067
We look forward to working with your family!