Many parents wonder about when they should schedule their child’s first visit to the dentist. You might be surprised to learn that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child has their first visit to the dentist before baby’s first birthday!
If you did a double-take when you read that “first before first” recommendation, here are some facts to consider:
When it comes to dental health, some parents mistakenly believe that baby and toddler tooth decay is no big deal, since those teeth will eventually fall out anyway. Unfortunately, 40 percent of children in the U.S. are suffering from tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten.
Untreated early childhood cavities can result in painful abscesses and inflammation, and can even affect your child’s permanent tooth development and alignment. Early loss of childhood teeth can also have a negative impact on your child’s speech development, since missing teeth can make it more difficult to create certain vocal sounds.
Now here’s the good news: You can do so much to help your child enjoy good dental health right from the start! In addition to consistent daily dental habits and proper nutrition, regularly scheduled visits to the dentist can ensure that cavity risks or other dental issues are identified and treated before they move into problem territory.
Your child’s first visit to the dentist is one very important step on the road to good dental health. In the days leading up your child’s first visit to the dentist, it’s important to create an atmosphere of happy anticipation.
You can prepare by reading simple “going to the dentist” books with your child. Talk about healthy, “happy” teeth. Talk about the upcoming visit in playful and positive terms, and make it an “adventure day.” Many dental practices provide play areas and toys in the reception area. On the day of the appointment, try to build in some play-area time before and after your child’s appointment. This will help them associate the idea of fun and a visit to the dentist.
Ideally, your child’s first visit to the dentist won’t involve any treatment. It’s a time for your child to become familiar with the dental office area, and to see the dentist and dental team as friendly faces.
Even if you personally struggle with some dental anxiety, don’t let that set the tone for your child’s first experience at the dentist! You need to lay the groundwork to help your child feel comfortable about going to visit the dentist regularly.
Remember, whether it’s “first before first”, or whether your child is a toddler or preschooler, their first visit to the dentist is a big deal. With some preparation and planning, you can help make it a great first visit!