Your child’s life will be filled with firsts: first steps, first words, and, of course, the first trip to the dentist. Below are a few tips to establish your child’s dental home.
When to go
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends the first dental visit within 6 months after the first tooth erupts or no later than the child’s first birthday. While this may seem early, it is actually the perfect time to acclimate your toddler to regular dental visits and get advice on eruption patterns, tooth cleaning, pacifiers, fluoride and prevention of tooth injuries for young walkers.
How to choose a dentist
While a parent’s first instinct may be to take their child to their own dentist, it is worth weighing the benefits of choosing a pediatric dentist. While general dentists are qualified to work with patients of all ages, pediatric dentists are required to obtain additional training that focuses on the specific dental needs of growing children.
What to expect
A child’s first visit to the dentist is relatively quick and easy, with the majority of the time spent educating the parent on a variety of children’s oral health topics, including brushing techniques for toddlers and infants, proper use of fluoride, oral habits (i.e. pacifiers and thumb sucking), ways to prevent accidents that could damage the face and teeth, teething and milestones of development, and dietary habits that may be putting your child at risk for cavities.
How to get started on the right foot
Remember, your child has no preconceived notion of what to expect at the dentist and will be taking cues from you. It is therefore important to keep your own emotions in check. Parents can introduce their child to the concept of the dentist using one of the many children’s books and educational YouTube videos themed around the first trip to the dentist.
Even with preparation, it is age-appropriate for young children to wiggle, fuss, cry and whine at their first visit. Rest assured, pediatric dentists and their staff are trained and equipped to handle these responses and make the best out of each visit.
When it comes to dental health, prevention is key. Establishing a dental home by your child’s first birthday will set the stage for a healthy smile and a lifetime of good oral hygiene.