I remember my first trip to the dentist, though I’m not sure if it was my first time at the dentist. I was cavity free and the dentist commended me (and my mom) on my good toothbrushing habits. With Sweet B, she goes once a year and we probably should have started earlier with her. She’s somewhat used to it now, though it’s still not her favorite place to go. With Squeaker, her pediatrician recommended that she start going at one year. So that got me to thinking: when should a child see a dentist? Is it ever too early?
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Ideally, dental care starts the day your baby is born. Before teeth emerge, the gums need to be gently swabbed with a soft, damp cloth once a day. Once the teeth begin to grow it’s up to the parent to gently brush those tiny new teeth. You can also products like tooth tissues, which don’t contain fluoride and are a great alternative.
For Squeaker, for now, we use a baby toothbrush and toothpaste from Orajel
Eventually, you teach your child to brush their own teeth and to develop good oral care habits. The American Dental Association recommends that children brush their teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste. They should also learn to floss, rinse with mouthwash to reduce bacteria and see the dentist twice a year.
However, many people struggle to get to the dentist. The limited number of dentists in rural communities is a barrier. And many people don’t have dental insurance, making an annual check-up unaffordable. Finally, there is a very common fear of going to the dentist.
Going to the dentist is essential, though.
Cavities, gum disease, and bacteria can cause long-term illness, loss of teeth, and social challenges. Not to mention the fact that cavities, mouth infections, and gum disease hurt. Periodontitis, aka gum disease, has been linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
National studies have shown that preschool-aged children are getting more cavities. More than one in four children in the United States has had at least one cavity by the age of four. Many kids get cavities as early as age two. The solution is to get your child to the dentist early.
The best time to start is when your child turns one year old. There are many steps to take before you make the appointment. First you’ll want to research and choose the best pediatric dentist available in your community. You’ll also want to review their payment options if you don’t have dental insurance.
There are steps you can take to prepare your young child for their first dental appointment. You’ll want them to be relaxed and to look forward to the appointment. You might read books about going to the dentist. My favorite, as a child, was The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist and for V, he loved Just Going to the Dentist (Little Critter).
You might also start talking about caring for their teeth, if you haven’t already. The goal is to make sure that they understand that going to the dentist is a positive step and the best way to keep a healthy mouth and smile.
During the appointment most pediatric dentists will allow the parents to accompany their child.
You’ll want to make sure that the steps the oral hygienist and the dentist take are clearly explained and that your child stays relaxed. Your child’s first dental appointment will set the groundwork for the rest of their dental life.
It sets them up not only for good oral health but also for good physical health.
If you’re a parent, how old were your children when they had their first dentist visit?
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