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When to Take Your Toddler to the Dentist

Shiri Sarfati

Taking a child to his first dental visit can be a bit daunting for a new parent. You may have questions and concerns about when to take your toddler to the dentist and what to expect during the visit. Here are some helpful tips to alleviate any anxiety associated with your child's first visit.

Timing It Right

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child's first dental visit should happen by the time he is 1 year old. Pediatric dentists are urging more pediatricians to get on board with this recommendation and are even recommending that it is time to take your toddler to the dentist when the child's first tooth erupts. Learning about proper oral hygiene, preventive care and nutrition is important for parents so that they can best care for their child's new teeth. It is also important to "establish a dental home" early on, according to Dr. Jerry Ashrafi, Manhattan-based pediatric dentist. "The first visit is really more for the parent," says Ashrafi.

Choose a Pediatric Dentist That Knows How to Play

Finding a dental office that caters to children and is geared to their needs is highly recommended. Dr. Ashrafi suggests seeing a pediatric dentist over a general dentist because "going to a pediatric dentist that is trained to see young children and to do things in a gentle manner can build confidence." Many pediatric dental offices will have an array of toys in the waiting room as well as distractions such as cartoons and stuffed animals in the patient room. Ask your friends for personal recommendations in your neighborhood or find a dentist in your insurance network whom you like and trust.

Questions Your Dentist May Ask

At the first visit, your child's dentist will be interested in recording the child's dental and medical history and helping you and your child maintain a healthy smile. Be prepared to talk about everyday hygiene habits and diet. Commonly asked questions include: How is brushing going? What kind of toothpaste is your child using? The dentist may ask about diet, including how much water and how many cups of juice the child drinks per day. (No more than 1–2 cups of juice per day is suggested, and diluted juice is preferred.) In addition, the dentist will discuss the nighttime milk routine, including whether teeth are being brushed or wiped afterwards and what types of snacks are consumed  and regularly given. Questions regarding oral habits, especially regarding pacifier or thumb-sucking, how long during the day the child sucks and how hard he sucks, will be addressed.

In addition, your pediatric dentist will be on the lookout for red flags, such as white spots and discoloration on the front surface of teeth and misaligned teeth once the baby gets older from extensive thumb-sucking. 

Don't Worry If Nothing Happens at the First Visit

It is critical to know when to take your toddler to the dentist. The first dental visit is primarily intended to get your child acquainted with his dentist and to begin a lifetime of good oral health. Don't panic if your child doesn't want to open wide. This visit is as important for the parent and caregiver as it is for the child. Learning how to care for your child's teeth, understanding what foods to avoid and getting rid of that nighttime bottle are all essential in caring for your child's teeth.

Learn more about your child's age 1 dental visit in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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