Advice Column, Health

A Child’s First Visit to the Dentist

Your child’s introduction to oral care should actually begin soon after birth. By gently cleaning a baby’s gums after feeding with a soft, damp washcloth, parents can get the child accustomed to oral hygiene which is an important, everyday routine.

Your child’s first dental visit is as important as those first words or first steps; it’s a social and developmental milestone. By starting dental habits at an early age, you will help your child develop a lifetime of good dental habits.

A child’s introduction to professional dental care should take place by the child’s first birthday. The earlier you begin, the better chance there is to prevent problems.

During the first dental visit, your child’s mouth, teeth and gums will be examined for any signs of tooth decay and other problems. Depending on the age, X-rays may be taken to see whether facial bones and teeth are developing properly and to find any hidden decay. The teeth may also be cleaned and any adverse habits such as thumb sucking can be evaluated. Also you could be taught to effectively clean your child’s teeth at home.

Regular fluoride treatment is helpful; I recommend it be done every six months.    Let your dentist do it, so that regular visits to the dentist become the norm for your child.

A good time to schedule your child’s first dental appointment is in the morning, when he or she is rested and more cooperative.  Morning appointments also don’t conflict with mealtimes or naps.

If your child enjoys the first dental visit, future visit will be anticipated rather than feared. These early experiences will influence your child’s attitude towards dental health, and can help start him or her on the path to a lifetime of good dental health.

Before the first dental visit

Here are some important tips for your child’s first dental visit:

Don’t:

  • Bribe your child into going to the dentist
  • Use dental visit as a punishment
  • Let the child know that you feel any anxiety about going to the dentist
  • Let anyone tell your child scary stories about dental visits

Do:

  • Talk about the upcoming appointment  with the  child in a positive, matter-of-fact way
  • Try to make dental visits enjoyable for your child
  • Set  a good example by caring for your own teeth
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