Let’s be real—it’s not easy to take care of your kid’s teeth. Many challenges await that endeavor. There are midnight nursing sessions that leave you too tired to clean up after. Not to mention, the excessive amount of resistance you’ll get when you first start. Unfortunately, no shortcut will leave your kids effortlessly cavity-free for the rest of their lives. One thing that can make things easier, however, is to have their first dental visit before age 1. While many American children have their first appointment at the age of two, far beyond the recommended age, it’s important you visit the dentist by age 1. Here’s why:
They’re more likely to be dentally healthy throughout their life
It can sound a little crazy to take your kids to the dentist when they barely have teeth. Others might even call it a waste of time and money. Arguably, however, it’s actually the best time for their first dental visit.
Yes, for the most part, oral bacteria only really become a true threat when a little only already has teeth. But by this definition, your child’s teeth are in danger as soon as they emerge. Of course, other things affect this. An important one, in particular, is how much bacteria colonizes in the mouth. Children, especially newborns, initially don’t have the oral bacteria that cause tooth decay. It’s their parents that give it to them, mainly via saliva transfer. The more bacteria their parents have in their mouths, then, the more likely they’ll develop tooth decay once their teeth erupt.
There are two things we can take away from this. One, your oral health matters as much as your child’s. So, you can’t skimp on your dental routine either. Two, your child’s newly erupted teeth are ripe targets for oral bacteria.
The earlier your child gets their teeth checked, then, the less likely this will happen. During the check-up, your kid’s pediatric dentist can check their tooth or teeth for any signs of decay. When they do spot red flags, they can reverse the situation before it turns ugly. Because of this, your kid is less likely to get severe dental disease in their lifetime.
Also, far from being placeholders, these teeth also serve crucial functions in your child’s development. These functions include speech development and proper eating habits.
The first appointment protects your child’s teeth from future problems
At six months of age, your child’s first dental examination is relatively simple. The pediatric dentist (or in some instances, the family dentist) will look at your baby’s teeth and gums. If they spot any plaque build-up, they will gently clean the child’s teeth.
As your child grows older, they might develop habits which may be detrimental to their oral health, such as thumb-sucking. In this case, the pediatric dentist may also check for these. They could then amend them as soon as possible before these habits can cause long-term damage.
Once your child develops all 20 milk teeth, your dentist may also suggest other cavity-prevention measures. For instance, they may prescribe your child fluoride treatment, which can help supplement the fluoride they get from their food and toothpaste. The pediatric dentist may also apply a dental sealant to your child’s back teeth, which protects against tooth decay.
The earlier your children start, the more likely they’ll head to their appointments
Another benefit of taking your kids early to the dentist is that it becomes easier for them to keep up with their appointments. Children are generally anxious about heading to unfamiliar places, and the dental office is one. It’s no surprise that dental anxiety affects 6-19% of children aged 4-19 years. And while their pediatric dentist could aid in alleviating this fear, early and constant visits could further demystify it.
If they get the first-visit-flutter, there are things you can do to help ease their nervousness. For one, taking your kids to your dental appointments can make the procedure feel more familiar to them. If they see that you are doing fine, chances are, they’ll feel the same way too.
You can also familiarize the dentist’s office by showing them media related to it. This might include cartoons or children’s books. To drive the point home, you can also incorporate it into playtime and take turns playing dentist and patient.
More importantly, if they have any concerns or questions about the dental visit, be sure to address them as much as possible. Since children are naturally curious, you might be able to use it to your advantage—and theirs.
It makes it easier for them to build good oral habits
You might also receive a prescription for some lifestyle changes during that first appointment. Follow this, and your child won’t just avoid bad oral problems—they might just have an advantage when it comes to oral health.
If your child’s pediatric dentist doesn’t find any problems during the first visit, the next appointment typically happens six months later. Having an appointment every six months, then, allows their dentist to track their dental progress. By doing this, they can see which parts of their routine work and which do not. After all, your child deserves to have the best smile they can get—and their pediatric dentist is out to do just that.
During a first visit, your child may only take a few minutes. The dentist will check the child’s teeth for indication of dental caries and general assessment of their oral health. Also, the dentist will check for the child’s bite, oral tissues, jaw, and gums. Your child may also undergo cleaning.
- As a parent, you might be anxious in bringing your child to a foreign place with all the machines and instruments (and a dentist wearing funny looking binocular like glasses). However, it will be best to keep your composure and stay calm. After all, children tend to turn to their parents for signals regarding a new situation. If your child saw you being apprehensive, they will sense it.
- Comforting your child with words such as, “Don’t be afraid” or “It’s alright” is doing more harm than good. They may begin to think that there is something they should be afraid of and that there is an imminent danger.
- Act normal. Talk to your child about how going to the dentist is part of everyone’s life. You can also use stories or toys to help them understand the situation and the need to visit the dentist.
- Encourage your child to enjoy the experience by telling them good stories about dentists and what they might enjoy in the dental office.
- Also, ensure that the dental facility is kid-friendly, and its staff are approachable. The dentist must also be gentle and friendly in making the experience comfortable for your child.
If your child cries, avoid scolding him and using the dentist as a threat when they misbehave. Be patient, and comfort your kid with nice words. After the visit, give your child compliments for doing well during their first visit to the dentist.