When to Start Taking Your Child to the Dentist

Gentle Dental

Many parents seek early preventative health care for their children, often taking them to the pediatrician within a few days after baby comes home from the hospital. Parents may be less certain about when it is appropriate to start taking a baby or toddler to the dentist.  The questions and answers below can help you understand the importance of early dental care and its impact on your child’s development.

Why is Pediatric Dentistry Important?

Many parents discount the importance of oral health care in young children. This is often because the parents assume that oral health is only important once the permanent teeth have come in.

This assumption is untrue.  Tooth decay and gum disease can have a significant impact on a child’s physical, emotional, and social well-being. Cavities, broken teeth, and swollen gums can be painful for a child.

In addition, children who are self-conscious about their teeth and gums may refuse to speak or smile in front of other people. This can inhibit a child’s school performance as well as his or her ability to make friends.

Developing good oral health habits early in life is likewise important. When children are comfortable going to the dentist and learn how to properly brush and floss, they will have an easier time developing an oral health routine that can hold them in good stead through adulthood.

During early dental exams, your dentist can begin to monitor the development of your child’s teeth, jaw, and palate. This allows your dentist to make recommendations regarding the need for orthodontic care, or in more severe conditions, oral surgery

What is a Pediatric Dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a licensed dentist who has completed an additional two-year residency in pediatric dentistry. These dentists are qualified to provide specialized care for children from infancy to their late teens.

When Should I Begin Taking My Baby to the Dentist?

Dental professionals recommend that you bring your baby to the dentist six months after his or her first tooth erupts or soon after his or her first birthday, whichever comes first. If you have questions about when to begin dental visits,  or suspect that your child has special oral health issues, talk to your pediatrician.

How Do I Prepare for My Child’s First Visit to a Dentist?

If you have scheduled a first time pediatric dental visit, it’s a good idea to prepare in much the same way as you would be foreseeing any health care professional for the first time. Be sure to provide your dentist’s office with pertinent medical records, information about medications or allergies,  and contact information for your child’s pediatrician.

Sucking behavior (i.e., thumb, pacifier, bottle) is also something the dentist should know about.  Thumb pacifier sucking can have an impact on mouth development. In addition, your dentist may want to know about your child’s bottle habits. Children who take bottles to bed are at risk for developing tooth decay due to the presence of sugars in their mouths overnight.

How Can I Prepare a Toddler for a Dental Visit?

Many toddlers, even those who are generally energetic and outgoing, may find going to the dentist to be intimidating. You can prepare a toddler for going to the dentist by talking to him or her forehand about where you will be going and what you will be doing there. Your local library may also be able to recommend a book that you can read to your child about seeing the dentist.

Since you’ve probably been brushing your child’s teeth for the past few years, you may want to take time during toothbrushing to explain the importance of what you are doing and why the child will be going to the dentist. You can note the dentist will be using special equipment to clean the child’s teeth,  which will help your child stay healthy.

Pediatric dentists and hygienists know how to introduce small children to professional dental care. They will show the child the tools they will be using during the exam and cleaning, allow the child to hear the sound of a tooth polisher and suction machine, and answer any questions your child may have. This respectful process can go a long way to helping your child feel comfortable when going to the dentist.

What if My Child Has Special Needs?

Children with special needs may find dental appointments to be particularly confusing. While pediatric dentists often have experience in working with special needs children, it’s a good idea to advise your dentist and his or her office staff of your child’s circumstances. The office staff may allot extra time for your child’s visit, providing him or her with time to relax and become familiar with his or her surroundings. Staff may even be able to schedule an appointment during a time when the office is less crowded and busy.

How Often Should My Child See a Dentist?

It is generally recommended that children see their dentist twice a year for an exam and cleaning.  In some cases, your child’s dentist may recommend more frequent appointments, particularly if your child is prone to tooth decay or the dentist is concerned about alignment or jaw development issues,

When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist Outside of Regular Appointments?

Dental emergencies and urgent care issues should be taken seriously. If your child is complaining of a toothache, expresses discomfort with hot or cold beverages, or if a permanent tooth is knocked out or loosened, contact your dentist’s office and explain the situation. Your dentist can provide you with instructions and may be able to arrange for an emergency appointment.

Final Word

Planning for your child’s dental care is important. If you are expecting a child, have added a new baby to your family, or recently moved, it’s time to begin your search for a pediatric dentist. At Gentle Dental neighborhood offices, pediatric dentists are often a part of our team.  Everyone in your family can receive quality oral health care at one office.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment. For your convenience, we offer both evening and weekend hours. In addition, we strive to make our services as gentle on your wallet as possible. We accept most major insurance plans, credit cards, discount programs, and offer financing options.