Maintaining healthy teeth requires more than just occasional visits to the family dentist. Every dentist wants to find each patient’s teeth in tip-top condition during cleanings, so it is critical that patients practice excellent oral hygiene habits at home. These practices can prevent oral problems like tooth decay, tooth instability, and gum disease. Once baby…
When To Schedule Your Child’s First Family Dentist Check-Up
Setting up regular appointments for your child with a family dentist helps them get accustomed to a dental office setting early on and learn proper dental hygiene habits that carry on into adulthood. Parents have a significant role in instructing children on how to properly maintain teeth and helping address any issues early on. To set children on the road to good oral health, parents should take children in for routine cleanings and check-ups from an early age.
Starting dental care from an early age
Though it can take several years for a young child’s first set of teeth to come in and many more years for all the permanent teeth to finally emerge, it is recommended by both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry that children start going to the dentist as soon the first teeth erupt from the gums. Since the timeline for when babies start to get teeth varies, the age a child first visits a family dentist is unique to each individual but should take place by age one.
Making the first appointment
While a child’s first dental check-up should take place before their first birthday, this initial check-up may feel more like a practice appointment. Many babies and toddlers only have a couple of teeth and are too anxious or squirmy to sit for a whole cleaning. Instead, the main purpose of this visit is to slowly introduce the child to the dentist and make the experience fun.
What to expect
On the day of the appointment, the dental staff welcomes back the parent and child and may give a tour of the office. If possible, the hygienist takes pictures of the child's teeth, but no X-rays are needed unless there is an issue that needs to be examined in further detail.
Next, the child is taken to an examination room. Some children may feel comfortable sitting in an exam chair, but younger babies or generally anxious children often prefer to sit in a parent’s lap the first time. The hygienist introduces each dental tool in an entertaining, nonthreatening way. The staff member brushes and flosses the child’s teeth or may do a more thorough cleaning if the child seems relaxed.
After the cleaning portion of the appointment is over, the dentist makes an introduction and examines the child’s gums, teeth, and overall mouth. The dentist discusses the child’s dental hygiene habits with the parents. Depending on any issues that are present, the dentist may give recommendations on how to help children enjoy teeth brushing sessions, how to correct thumb-sucking behaviors, when to worry about teeth grinding, and what snacks promote healthy teeth and gums. If necessary, a fluoride paste is applied to the surface of each tooth.
Allowing children to see a family dentist early on makes visits less stressful later on. After learning that the dentist can be a fun, exciting place, many children look forward to routine check-ups and take extra care to keep teeth clean between appointments.
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