When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist?

By February 11, 2019 General
image of child holding onto moms face

As soon as your little one started teething you might have asked when should I take my child to the dentist? Is it when they have all of their teeth? Or do you wait until there’s an issue like a cavity? Well, you may be surprised to learn that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you schedule your baby’s first dental visit by the time they turn one. We know that sounds super young, after all, they may only have a few baby teeth in their mouth at that point. However, there are a number of advantages to starting kids off early. We’ll be covering the basics of the first visit and why it’s important.

What Happens at a Child’s First Dental Visit?

What happens at a child’s first dental visit really depends on their age and the situation. At Bitesize, our Brooklyn pediatric dentists always let the child set the pace and we don’t have any hard and fast rules for how things should go. By giving kids – even really young ones– a sense of control and not pushing them too far outside of their comfort zone, we can establish a good rapport. This way, they’ll feel safe and secure with us. When kids trust the dentist, cleanings and exams are easier and more effective and so is treatment if it’s ever needed.

At your baby’s first dental visit, they’ll typically sit on your lap. It could even just be a meet and greet if your child is really anxious. We’ll usually look in their mouth and count their teeth. If your kiddo is ready for a cleaning, we use the tell-show-do approach, where we tell them what we’re going to do and why, show them the special tools we’ll use and then get to work (don’t worry, we’re quick!).

These first visits are important because they allow kids to get familiar with the sights and sounds of the dental office and we can make sure their growth and development is on track. Equally important, we can communicate with you, the parent, and chat with you about things like how to develop an awesome oral hygiene regimen, how to avoid tooth decay and ways to address harmful oral habits like prolonged bottle use or thumb sucking.

How Often Should My Child See a Dentist?

While the schedule for your little one’s dental visits might vary depending on their needs, we typically recommend check-ups every six months. This helps us further establish a relationship and boost your child’s confidence when it comes to appointments. Since kids’ mouths change and grow so quickly, we can also keep tabs on how their smile is shaping up. If we spot problems, we can treat them early on when it is easier and less invasive.

Why Should My Child See a Pediatric Dentist?

A pediatric dentist is a specialist who undergoes extra training after dental school to become an expert in the dental needs of kids and teens, including those with special needs. We have a deep understanding of a child’s development and the unique challenges they face when it comes to their oral health. We also learn about child psychology and how to communicate with young patients in a way that’s upbeat, educational and non-threatening. We use child-specific language and methods that ease anxiety and encourage a positive relationship with dental health that can last a lifetime.

Beyond our training, our practice is designed especially for kids. Both our Park Slope and Williamsburg pediatric dental offices are bright and colorful. We have toys and games to keep little ones entertained and we offer balloons and cool toothbrushes. Our treatment rooms are kid-sized for their comfort. An adult dental office can be pretty scary, clinical and intimidating to a child. We avoid that and we make visiting the dentist fun. This can go a long way in creating a stress-free experience for kids and parents.

How to Prepare for My Little One’s First Dental Visit?

No matter how awesome a dental office is, little ones can still have apprehension about their first dentist visit. It’s because everything is unfamiliar and, sometimes, they could have even heard some less than thrilling stories about the dentist. To help prepare a child for their first dental visit, we recommend reading about going to the dentist (we even have a free downloadable story to get kids ready for their appointment!) or watching fun videos about so they begin to understand the concept.

Tell your child about their actual visit very close to the day of the appointment. Don’t surprise them, which can create mistrust, but don’t tell them weeks in advance either because it gives them time to imagine all sorts of scenarios. Avoid using any scary words like “drill” or “shot” and refer to the dentist in positive terms. Let them know a super friendly tooth doctor will count their teeth and look at their smile.

You may want to bring along a favorite stuffed animal or toy to help ease any nerves your child is feeling. Don’t stress out about how your kid will behave and whether or not they’ll act out. We have a lot of experience in helping kids get through their first dentist visit and every time they come in, it gets easier.

Now that you know when you should take your child to the dentist, is it time to schedule their first visit? Book an appointment at Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry in Park Slope or Williamsburg and we’ll help your child get off on the right foot with dental visits!

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