You may be surprised to learn that the American Dental Association recommends that children begin seeing the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first baby tooth, but no later than the first birthday. Many parents are under the impression that the first appointment should be when a child reaches preschool age, but the guidelines have changed in order to help us provide better dental care to our smallest patients. If you’re wondering what happens at this visit, here’s what to expect.
Early Dental Visits Establish Trust
What can a dentist do when a child only has one or two teeth in their mouth? One of the most important reasons for these early dental visits is to establish trust between dentist, parents, and patient. Pediatric dental visits lay the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health.
We strive to make pediatric dental appointments positive and stress-free experiences for children. As a family practice, it can be reassuring to children to see their parents and siblings going to the same dentist that they go to. To ensure that your child’s first visit goes well, schedule the appointment for a time when your child is well-rested and use positive language when talking about the dentist. During the appointment, you may need to hold your child, which is fine.
You can expect your little one’s first dental visit to last between 30 and 45 minutes. Most of this time is spent talking to mom or dad.
The Importance of Dental Instruction
Dental instruction is one of the most important parts of pediatric dental visits. With a baby that only has a few teeth, the dental instruction provided is mostly for the parents. We’ll talk about best practices for oral care, including nutrition and feeding advice, when to expect new teeth to erupt and how to treat pain and discomfort from teething, and oral hygiene instruction. We’ll also share our advice on the best dental products to use for your child’s age and needs.
Your Child’s First Oral Exam
If your child is still a baby, the oral exam is brief. We’ll examine their mouth and record which teeth have erupted. For toddlers and preschoolers, we’ll also look for signs of decay, make sure the jaw is developing properly, assess the bite, and do a gentle cleaning if needed. We check for problems related to thumb sucking or pacifier use and provide fluoride treatment to protect against cavities. (Yes, cavities do matter in primary teeth because they make secondary teeth more susceptible to decay and can impact a child’s overall health.)
It’s very unusual that we would need x-rays during a first dental visit. The only reason we would request them is if there is a serious dental issue apparent upon exam that would impact the development or eruption of the secondary teeth.
Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Visit
We’d love to see your child at our family dental practice. Contact us today at 516-921-1133 to schedule an appointment.