When should a child go to the dentist for the first time? One in six parents believe age four or older is the norm when in fact, a child should have their first dental appointment before no later than their first birthday or within six months of when their first tooth erupts.

Many parents are surprised by this guideline, but taking your child to the dentist by either early milestone will help ensure their baby and permanent teeth stay healthy. It will also help them grow into adults who are not fearful of the dentist and take responsibility for their oral health.

Here’s everything you need to know about when to take your child to the dentist for the first time and why it’s so important.

When Should a Child Go to the Dentist?

As mentioned, a child should start seeing a dentist as soon as their first tooth appears. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that all children should have their first dental visit by the time they’re one year old or within six months of getting their first tooth. Many pediatric and family doctors often make this recommendation to parents as well.

Why Are Early Dental Visits Needed?

If your child is still a baby and barely has any teeth yet, you may be wondering why it’s necessary to take them to the dentist. However, there are many benefits to early professional dental care that can give your child a healthy smile for life.

Baby Teeth Are Important

Even though your child will lose them eventually, their baby teeth are still important. Keeping baby teeth healthy helps keep their permanent teeth in their jawbones healthy. And having a healthy smile will contribute to your child’s overall health strong and boost their self-esteem.

They’ll Enjoy Going to the Dentist

Taking the child to the dentist—especially when they’re not even aware yet of what a dentist is—will show them that a dental office doesn’t have to be a scary place. In fact, it can be a fun experience, and the perfect pediatric dental center knows how to communicate with kids and help them feel relaxed and comfortable. When kids have positive experiences at the dentist, they’ll be more likely to go for regular check-ups as adults.

You’ll Learn How to Care for Their Teeth

Dentists focus on preventative care. You’ll find out from early dental visits if you’re properly caring for your child’s teeth so they can avoid getting tooth decay. You’ll learn tips and tricks on getting them to brush once they’re old enough to do so on their own as well.

Your Child Won’t Have to Suffer From Tooth Pain

Sadly, many children who don’t receive regular dental care suffer from toothache pain which can affect their sleep and ability to concentrate in school. Taking your child to regular dental visits starting from a young age ensures that small cavities and other problems can be treated before they have a chance to cause pain.

What to Expect During Your Child’s First Dental Visit

Your child’s first visit to the dentist will focus on making them comfortable with the office’s sights and sounds and introducing them to the dentist and their staff. You’ll be asked to provide your child’s medical and any previous dental history.

If your child is very young, you’ll be able to hold them on your lap while the dentist examines their mouth. The dentist will check for cavities and early signs of gingivitis as well as their bite. Their teeth may also be gently cleaned and polished either during this initial visit or the next one.

The dentist will let you know if they require any treatments and map out a treatment plan for you. They’ll also advise you on the proper way to brush, floss, and care for your child’s teeth if they’re not old enough yet to do it themselves.

At this point, your child won’t receive any treatment but if they’re big enough, they’ll receive dental x-rays. Any needed treatment will be scheduled for future appointments. You should expect the first appointment to last anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes.

Preparing Your Child for Their First Dental Visit

No matter how old your child is, there are a few things every parent can do to prepare them for their first dental visit so they’re less nervous.

If your child is very young, you want to begin cleaning their first tooth as soon as it erupts. Wipe it after every feeding with a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger, or brush it gently with a baby-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush. At this early stage, you don’t need to use toothpaste.

Continue brushing your child’s teeth as more of them erupt. This will not only keep them clean but helps your young child get used to having a dental tool in their mouth.

If your child is a bit older to understand what a dentist is and what they do, you can read them children’s books about dental visits and watch videos aimed at kids about visiting the dentist. You can also purchase a dental mirror at your local drugstore and take turns with your child examining and counting each other’s teeth.

If you have a dental appointment coming up, taking your child with you so they can watch what the dentist does can also calm their fears and help them know what to expect at their own appointment.

Using praise and positive reinforcement can help tremendously as well!

Early Dental Care Means a Lifetime of Healthy Teeth

Now that you know the answer to “When should a child go to the dentist?”, you also know how important early dental care is for your child’s health and well-being. Your child’s smile can last forever with proper dental care and visits start begin very young in life.

Thinking of taking your child to visit us for the first time? Check out our new patients info page, where you can download forms to fill out before their first appointment and take an online tour of our office!