Many first-time parents have questions about when to bring their child to the dentist. Current recommendations say your child should see a dentist by his or her third birthday, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about it.
Family dentist Vancouver, WA Dr. Carl Futenma encourages parents to bring little ones in whenever you suspect something is not right with their oral health or dental development. If you see possible signs of tartar build-up or dark spots that may indicate tooth decay, this is also a good reason to make an appointment. If your child ever complains of a toothache, schedule a visit immediately, no matter what their age!
Is your child approaching the recommended age for a first trip to the dentist? Bring your child to Creative Smiles (dentist Vancouver, WA) and you’ll see what sets us apart from other practices. Call us at 360-573-3061 to make an appointment.
Early Visits Lessen Fear and Anxiety
While your child may not need a formal cleaning and routine check-up until the third birthday, earlier visits are a good way to pre-empt anxiety before the first formal visit. Kids sometimes become wary when they hear they have to go to the dentist. This is mostly due to fear of the unknown. The earlier you bring your child to the dentist, the easier it can be to allay these fears.
If your child already experiences anxiety over doctor appointments, due to getting vaccine shots, for example, you may want to bring your child to your dental visits occasionally. This can help establish that the dentist’s office is a safe and friendly place to be. This can make the first formal visit less fraught for some children.
What Happens at the First Dental Visit?
Always let us know if your child’s appointment is his first time seeing a dentist. We like to take extra special care to make sure first-timers feel safe and comfortable before we start. This sometimes involves giving them extra time to get used to procedures, letting them ask questions, and explaining the things we do.
During each child’s routine visit, we:
- Take x-rays, so we can see what’s going on below the surface.
- Examine the teeth and gums, to check for normal development.
- Check for cavities or soft spots that may develop into cavities.
- Perform a teeth cleaning, to remove plaque.
- Apply fluoride gel, to strengthen the teeth and prevent decay.
- Apply sealants, to provide a barrier against bacteria.
- Talk with the patient about brushing and flossing technique.
- Talk with the parent about oral hygiene, eating habits, and potential concerns.
- Schedule your next visit, about six months into the future.
Preventing Tooth Decay, from the First Tooth
Baby books don’t always cover oral health topics fully. It’s sometimes a surprise to parents that oral hygiene should start with the very first tooth! Baby teeth are smaller than adult teeth and have thinner enamel. This means that dental decay can worsen and spread faster than in adult teeth. Starting a regular daily oral hygiene routine at a young age is a great way to make sure your child’s first dental visits don’t involve toothaches or cavities.
Infants should have their teeth cleaned daily with a soft wet washcloth or a piece of gauze. Parents can move on to baby-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste (without fluoride) when the child is old enough to cooperate with a nightly brushing.
As your child becomes ready and willing to brush for himself, make sure to use only age-appropriate toothpastes, as children tend to swallow a lot more than they spit. Swallowing fluoride can be a health hazard as it is toxic in high doses and can cause staining in developing teeth. Also, be sure to brush his or her teeth for him regularly, to make sure the teeth are really getting clean.
When your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste reliably, you can switch to a fluoride-containing toothpaste—but be sure to continue to monitor brushing to ensure good habits. It’s a good idea for parents to monitor kids’ brushing habits until they are out of elementary school, in fact, even if it’s just once or twice a week.
Beyond brushing the teeth every day,
- Don’t put a baby or toddler to bed with a bottle of milk, as this can lead to baby bottle decay. If they insist on a bottle at bed time, switch to water instead.
- Avoid fruit juice, sodas, and sugary sweets.
- Buy brushing and flossing tools that get your child excited about brushing.
- A timer can help kids make sure they brush for a full two minutes every time.
- Brush your own teeth in tandem with your child, occasionally, to model good brushing technique.
- Use flossing picks made for children to help small hands learn how to floss between the teeth.
If your child is nearly three years old, visit Creative Smiles for a wonderful first dental visit. Call us at 360-573-3061 to make an appointment with Dr. Futenma, dentist Vancouver, WA .