The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children start seeing the dentist at the age of one year, or no later than six months after their first tooth has come in. This may seem surprisingly young to parents, but as soon as a baby gets their first tooth, they are susceptible to tooth decay. Starting dental care early keeps your child’s mouth and teeth healthy, and it also enables you and your child to avoid the stress and fear that comes from putting off the first dental visit until there is a problem.
At the first dental office visit for your child, a lot of the time will be devoted to the pediatric dentist or general dentist developing a friendly relationship with your child. It will also be a learning experience, for you as well as your child. The dentist can explain how you, at this stage, can help your child to brush his or her teeth. You can prepare your child for the visit by first contacting the office to find out what will happen at the appointment. Then you can communicate to your child what to expect in a way that they can understand at their age. You may want to find children’s books or videos about visiting the dentist to help them understand what is going to happen, and even help them to look forward to the upcoming visit. Ask your dentist or staff if it’s okay to let your child bring along a favorite stuffed animal or toy when they come to the appointment. Sometimes something familiar from home helps a child to feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.
The actual age at which you schedule your child’s first dental visit is up to you, but the best way to avoid fear and stress is to have the first appointment before there is any obvious problem with your child’s teeth. When a first visit is routine as far as the exam is concerned, it allows more time for the dentist to get to know the child and gain their trust, and the exam itself will be simple. If you wait until there is a problem, your child may have an uncomfortable first visit, which can lead to problems with every dental visit and even avoidance of the dentist when they are grown.