What’s the ideal age to take your child to a dentist?
Dr. Akhil Chandra from Bayview Dental answers this common question and it’s probably earlier than your thought!
In the general population, there seems to be great insecurity about when your child should visit the dentist for the first time.
The general recommendation is within 6 months of the first tooth coming in and no later than the age of one. You can take your child at an earlier stage if you notice anything concerning. The first visit to the dentist is to help your child get familiar with the dentist and feel comfortable.
It will often last no longer than 30-45 minutes and depending of the age of your child will include an exam of the teeth, the soft tissues, the jaw, the bite and to assess the growth and development status as well as looking for frenum issues that could cause problems in teeth and speech patterns.
Whats involved in taking a child to the dentist?
At Bayview Dental strive to make the visit fun for the child and we use appropriate language to describe our instruments and do the exam in a playful way. Examples include telling the child we “count their teeth” or they can bring their toothbrush and they can show how they brush at home. This gives us a chance to intervene and improve brushing habits, flossing and give advice on the need for fluoride and on how you can properly care for your child’s mouth.
If needed your child may have a gentle clean. This would include the removal of plaque, calculus, and polish.
The baby can sit on the parent’s lab until they are old enough to be briefly separated from the parent. Afterward, the parent will sit in the eyesight of the child.
Why so young?
It is important to see the dentist early on so that we do not have to perform any big procedures. We want the child to be comfortable and feel at ease going to the dentist later in life.
If children see the dentist on a regular basis, we can intervene early if there is decay and therefore avoid dental pain or big and long procedures.
In general, it is best if young children do not have dental radiographs done unless it is necessary. X-rays are luckily not often needed but our dentist might recommend them to diagnose decay, after trauma, or if a baby tooth is affecting the adult tooth.
At the first visit you can also get information on:
- Pacifier habits
- Finger-sucking habits and their consequence
- Cleaning routines
- Infant feeding recommendations
- Nursing bottle syndrome
- Tooth friendly dietary recommendations
How to prepare for your child's first dentist visit
We recommend scheduling a morning appointment. Then your child is rested and cooperative.
For preschool or older children, it can help to explain to them what to expect. Here it is very important to use the appropriate language and to not scare them. You can tell them about the room, the chair, the bright light (we refer to as the sun), the face mask that the dentist and assistant are wearing. It can also help to read children’s books about dentists. We also have a TV on the ceiling in some clinics and they can choose their favourite show to watch.
How the parent should prepare
- Think about the questions and concerns that you would like to discuss with the dentist – we will answer any questions you may have.
- Become aware of your own feelings towards the dentist. You might have dental anxiety but it is important to stay calm and give your child moral support. It is important to not impose your feelings towards the dentist to the child. Children can pick up the anxiety of their parents and become anxious themselves.
- It can also help to fill out the Medical History form before you come in, so that the stay in the waiting room is shortened and you can focus on your child while waiting. Our friendly receptionists will gladly send the paperwork to your email prior your visit.
Just like you go every 6 months to the dentist, children should see the dentist every 4-12 months. Sometimes the dentist might recommend a shorter interval such as 3-4 months if it is necessary.
Frequent visits help us to keep an eye on the development and build trust and comfort in the child. Our Bayview Dental dentists will also let you know if your child is at high risk of decay. Two important ways how our dentists can prevent decay are by fluoride treatments and fissure sealants, which is a thin coat applied to the chewing surface of the teeth to cover deep grooves. Talk to us about payment options if the cost of dental care is an issue for you.
Did you know that your child between 2-17 years of age might be eligible for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule? You can use this in our clinic to pay for dental treatment.
It is important to be aware that tooth decay can occur as soon as the primary teeth erupt. Therefore, it is important to start brushing the teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
Clean teeth with a soft toothbrush made for children. Fluoride-containing toothpaste is not recommended before the age of 3. There is children’s toothpaste without fluoride available.
Severe decay can harm your child’s overall health and dental development as well as speech pattern – it is super important to look after your child’s baby teeth.
Here are some tips to protect your child’s teeth:
- Brush your child’s teeth from the moment the first tooth erupts and use a soft toothbrush.
- Prevent nursing bottle syndrome by not giving children a bottle of milk, juice or sweetened drink at bedtime or before they nap
- Limit the time when your child has a bottle. They should empty the bottle within 5 minutes.
- Help your child brush their teeth. You should help them brush their teeth until the age of 7 or 8.
- Start early by showing them how you brush and watch them brush and help with missed spots.
- Limit snacking and sweet food. Be aware of hidden sugars and drink water instead of sweet drinks. Let them eat fruit instead of giving them fruit juice.
Most important make your child’s dental visit an enjoyable one and never bribe your child to go to the dentist or use the visit at the dentist as a threat.
We know there is a lot to think about as a parent but we are here for you to help guide you and your child into a future of good oral health by teaching your child good hygiene habits early.