It’s one of the most common questions we hear from new or expectant parents: when should I take my child to the dentist? The general rule of thumb is that you should take your child to the dentist by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth “coming in” or erupting. This recommendation comes from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), and it’s widely regarding as the industry standard.
In reality, however, many parents do not know about this recommendation and may not schedule their child’s first dentist appointment until after he or she is two years old. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Morpace, Inc., on behalf of Delta Dental Plans Association, the average age for most children’s first visit is 2.6 years with 34% of those surveyed saying they had never taken their child to the dentist.
Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, whether your child first visited the dentist well before their first birthday or has never seen the dentist, it’s OK. What you won’t find at Greenville Family Dentistry are individuals who are quick to judge or point out missed opportunities. What you will find is a team of compassionate and understanding professionals who genuinely care about your child’s oral health – no matter where he or she is on the journey.
Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment
One common misconception is that you don’t have to care for “baby teeth” the same way as permanent teeth because they will fall out anyway. This misconception undermines the important role that primary or “baby” teeth play. Once your child’s first teeth come in (typically around six months old), it’s essential to care for these teeth because they perform a number of important functions, including:
- They aid in chewing and help maintain good nutrition.
- They impact speech development.
- They promote a healthy smile which builds the child’s self-esteem.
- They save space for the permanent teeth to come in later.
When your child visits the dentist for the first time, the dentist will be looking for a number of oral health issues, such as tooth decay (also known as baby bottle tooth decay), enamel hypoplasia, tongue thrust and tongue ties, as well as developmental issues relating to the mouth, jaw and face.
Your child’s first dentist appointment is also an opportunity for you to become educated about the best ways to care for your child’s teeth. Are you using the right toothpaste for your infant? Are you taking the right steps to break bad habits like thumb sucking? Are you doing what needs to be done to prevent tooth decay such as wiping off your baby’s gums with a clean washcloth? These and other questions can be answered quickly and easily by a qualified and experienced dentist.
Perhaps even more importantly, your child’s first appointment helps your child begin to feel comfortable with seeing the dentist. The goal is to familiarize your child with the new environment and new people in a welcoming and non-threatening way so that he or she can visit the dentist in the future without experiencing the anxiety or dread so often associated with the dentist. If a child is taught from an early age that there’s nothing to fear, he or she is more likely to know it to be true as they get older.
Finally, as is the case with most adults, prevention goes a long way in promoting and enjoying good oral health. As your child grows, you’ll want to establish sound oral hygiene habits and make it so that brushing twice a day, flossing daily and seeing the dentist every six months simply becomes a part of their routine.
Still Have Questions About Pediatric Dentistry?
We understand that you may have additional questions about pediatric dentistry, everything from the safety of X-rays to the effectiveness of dental sealants to the right type of toothbrush to choose for your child – and more. The AAPD is a great resource for more in-depth pediatric dentistry questions, and they have put together a list of FAQ for parents. Of course, you’re always welcome to contact us or call 864-877-9111 to speak with one of our staff today. We love caring for our youngest patients, and we’re always here to answer your questions!