When should I start bringing my child to the dentist for regular visits?
Your child’s first visit to the dentist can be when they are as young as one year old and certainly by the time their molars are through and all the milk teeth have grown (usually by around 2 years of age). A good estimate would be that by the time your child is 2 ½ years old they will have met their dentist.
Why come to the dentist at such a young age?
- Building a good relationship with a dentist at a young age will be a lifelong benefit
- Advice on home dental care and diet is important to help prevent dental problems. Teeth can be cleaned as soon as they appear – you can do this with a damp cloth / towel / finger / glove.
- Early diagnosis of dental problems will help your child achieve a healthy smile from a young age; it is much, much easier to prevent than to fix problems.
- As soon as teeth emerge children can start to get cavities.
- The earlier developmental dental problems are detected, such as crooked teeth or poor bite, often the easier the treatment will be, requiring less time and often less invasive procedures.
What should I expect at the first visit?
Often the 1st visit is acclimatisation – a ride in the chair, getting used to the dentist, the environment and equipment, and opening their mouth to have their teeth counted and checked. Sometimes it’s fun for your child to see you or another family member have their teeth checked and cleaned first. Typically your child will be given some fun presents, maybe a toothbrush and a sticker.
A child’s 1st visit to the dentist will be a ‘show and tell’ experience with the dentist explaining what they are doing in vocabulary that the child will understand. Most children like visiting the dentist: they get a ride in the chair, it is all about them and it can be fun. It certainly shouldn’t be stressful for your child or for you.
Most children’s dentists provide ‘entertainment’ in the waiting area such as movies, books, toys and colouring pencils. Entertainment is provided too in the dentists’ rooms so children can watch their favourite cartoons or TV series while having their checkup.
Is there anything I can do to prepare my child for their 1st visit?
Yes! A positive dental visit starts at home. What you say and do as a parent at home can help your child have a very positive experience at their first appointment.
Things you can do to help make your child’s first visit to the dentist enjoyable:
- Play dentist’s at home – you be the dentist, and then your child can be the dentist and you the patient.
- Read books about going to the dentist
- Make the appointment at a time when your child will be neither tired nor hungry or in a rush to be somewhere else. Allow plenty of time – maybe arrive a little early to allow time to play in the waiting area first.
- Remember this is a routine visit so be low-key. Answer any questions honestly but not specifically. Let the dentist explain the procedures using special vocabulary.
- Be positive in the language that you use (do not use negative words such as nervous, hurt, pain, drill, blood) and try to avoid bribery and threats in an attempt to encourage good behaviour.
- Let the Dr decide whether you should stay in the room – some children respond better without a parent present.
- Children sometimes misbehave, are shy or tearful, and can wriggle in the chair. Do not worry; the dentist will help manage the situation.
Remember – fear is not instinctive! If your child is frightened it is usually because they have learnt to be fearful from someone or have had a bad experience in the past. M