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When To Book Your Little One’s First Dental Visit (And What to Expect)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of children five to 11 have untreated tooth decay.

For these children, dental problems start much earlier with tooth decay in toddler teeth. Early at-home dental care plus dentistry for children can put these children on a path toward a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Here’s what you need to know about your child’s first dental visit.

When Should Your Child First Visit the Dentist?

Knowing when to take baby to the dentist is a big question for many parents. They may see temporary teeth as not needing professional cleaning because they’ll fall out, or they cannot imagine that a child could develop cavities by the time they have only one to two teeth.

The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) suggests that a child should first see a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth eruption. Despite this recommendation, over half of infants don’t see a child dentist before two years of age.

What to Expect During a Pediatric Dentist Visit

The CDA recommends that a young child lie down knee-to-knee with you as you sit in a chair next to the dental chair. For toddlers, your dentist may place a pillow in his or her lap with your child’s head on the pillow so that your child is comfortable during the inspection.

You may hold your child’s hands in a reassuring grip. The first dental checkup is usually very quick, after which you and your dentist discuss any findings and discuss any questions you may have.

During that first visit, your dentist:

  • Looks for signs of malformation that may cause problems within a year or two
  • Checks for overgrown labial frenulum (lip tie). The skin that connects the upper lip to the top gum comes down too far. This is often missed by the regular pediatrician and can impact eating and speech patterns. A simple procedure can correct it to save a child from the speech impediments and trouble eating.
  • Helps parents understand proper brushing technique
  • Assesses the presence of early dental caries (cavities)

If your pediatric dentist finds cavities, it is not time for judgment or shame. Instead, your dentist speaks with you about strategies to prevent them.

Follow these quick tips to help your child have the best experience:

  1. Find a pediatric dentist. Not all dentists see children or know how to conduct a child dentist visit.
  2. Avoid nap time. Schedule your appointment during a time when your child is likely to be well-rested.
  3. Get ready to learn. You may be the best parent ever, but there may still be things you don’t know regarding the latest research and care tips.
  4. If you are personally one of the many people who have dentist anxiety, please try to ease your own mind. The dentist can be a fun and friendly place for a child when their parents approach dentistry for children with calm and positivity.
  5. Get your child accustomed to dental exams by brushing teeth and gums at home.

Preventing Early Childhood Tooth Decay

The Canadian Institute for Health Information report found that one-third of all-day surgeries on preschoolers are due to cavities. Cavities are prevalent in young children, but proper children’s dental care at home and regular visits to a pediatric dentist can prevent most early childhood tooth decay.

You are your child’s first line of defence against tooth decay.

Why Starting Early Is So Important

Untreated tooth decay and other mouth-related ailments that children’s dental professionals commonly treat can lead to years of pain as well as costly damage to permanent teeth before they have even emerged.

Tooth decay in toddlers today can mean crooked and unhealthy teeth and gums later on. Early dentistry for children gets your child off to a good start in caring for their teeth for a lifetime.

Tips for Developing Good Habits at Home

Consider these at-home tips for preventing tooth decay in toddlers, babies, and preschool-aged children.

  1. Develop a dental routine with your child before the teeth emerge. Wipe gums twice a day with a soft cloth after your first feeding and again right before bedtime.
  2. When the first tooth comes it, brush it with a child-size brush and plain water twice a day. Introduce toothpaste once your child learns to spit not swallow.
  3. Use fluoride toothpaste. Only fluoride has been shown to stop tooth decay. Many “natural” toothpastes do not contain fluoride.
  4. Start flossing as soon as the first two teeth come together.
  5. Avoid fruit juice and sweet treats. Get your child accustomed to drinking plain water from an early age.
  6. Introduce healthy, savoury foods to your child early during the first year and limit sweet foods. A child’s taste buds adapt to appreciate or abhor healthy foods from a very young age.
  7. Model good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing in front of your child as well as keeping your own dentist visit.
  8. Be positive about dentistry for children.

A child’s first dental visit can be a quick and positive experience for both parent and child. It’s important to plan for your visits and start proper dental hygiene at home. Seeing a pediatric dentist early can help your child develop healthy dental habits for a lifetime of strong teeth and gums.