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Pediatric Dentistry: At What Age Should I Take My Child for Their First Visit?
Like adults, children need to regularly visit a pediatric dentistry for a cleaning and checkup at least twice a year. However, many parents are unsure of what age to make the first dental appointment. While some parents may assume that children do not need to visit a dentist until getting a full set of teeth, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child sees a dentist as soon as a tooth comes in. At the very latest, the child should have an appointment scheduled by the time of their first birthday. Here is some information on what to expect for the first visit and how to care for a young child’s teeth.
The first visit to a pediatric dentistry
Although many children experience some level of discomfort or fear during the first appointment, children who visit the dentist at a young age may experience less dental anxiety in the long run. The main purpose of this initial visit is to help the child adjust to the dental office and build trust with staff members. Most pediatric offices are designed to appear welcoming to children of all ages and may have engaging decorations on the wall, games and toys in the waiting room and fun prizes to choose from once the appointment is over.
Dental cleaning, examination and X-rays
Depending on the child’s comfort level, the first visit may begin with a tooth cleaning. The hygienist may refer to dental tools by silly, kid-friendly names and will gently introduce the child to each piece of equipment. Next, the dentist should examine the child’s mouth to catch any issues that can be addressed early on. The dentist will typically ask the parent questions about the child’s diet, brushing habits and bottle use. It is unlikely that the staff will take any oral X-rays during the first visit, but the pediatric dentistry may want a picture to put on file.
Caring for infant and toddler teeth
It is important for parents to begin a dental care routine for children right away. To start off, a baby toothbrush or washcloth should be used to clean the gums of young infants. Once teeth emerge, a toothbrush with a small amount of toothpaste should be used to brush each tooth.
Parents should discuss fluoride treatment with a pediatric dentist. Starting at six months old, children need fluoride to prevent cavities. While some locations have enough fluoride in tap water, many children need fluoride through toothpaste or supplements. Since young children often swallow too much toothpaste, chewable tablets or drops may be a better option.
Even in infancy, a child’s gums and teeth need to be cared for to prevent cavities and gum disease. Until the child can effectively brush and floss independently, it is primarily up to the parents to remove harmful bacteria from the child’s mouth. In addition to cleaning the child’s teeth at home, parents should take the child to a pediatric dentistry beginning at a young age to establish good dental hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.
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