The day your child attends his or her first dental visit can elicit a whirlwind of thoughts as you prepare: Is your child naturally anxious? Do you have any outstanding dental concerns? According to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, an infant can and should be seen by the dentist at the age of one, or within six months after the tooth comes in.
Getting to Know One Another
Your child's first dental visit primarily allows him to get acquainted with the dentist, facilitating an opportunity to meet in a non-threatening and friendly manner. Nonetheless, the appointment is recommended for when one or more baby teeth have erupted. Although it's usually short and involves very little treatment, it may include a thorough oral examination of the existing baby teeth. The dentist may check for any decay, examine your child's bite and look for any potential problems with the gums, jaw and oral tissues.
Tips for You
As with your own appointment, the dentist may demonstrate proper home care techniques, such as brushing and flossing and advise you on the use of fluoride at a certain age. Usually less than half an hour, these visits are generally tolerated well in the morning, so consider an early initial visit to avoid afternoon anxiousness. The dentist will also educate you about oral health care for children, discuss dental developmental issues and, naturally, answer any questions you may have. Dentists normally like to see children every six months to build up their confidence in regular dental visits, monitor the development of their teeth and to promptly treat any onset problems.
Topics to Review with the Dentist
Good oral hygiene practices are paramount for the consistent health of your child's teeth and gums, so address any hesitation you have in your approach while at home. In addition, you may want to talk about:
- Cavity prevention
- Fluoride needs
- Oral habits (thumb sucking, tongue thrusting)
- Developmental milestones
Proper nutrition will grow in importance as your child continues to visit the dentist. You'll surely be advised to avoid foods that can increase tooth decay, such as hard or sticky candies, as well as sweetened drinks and juices.
Proper Home Dental Care
With the right guidance, this first visit can lay the foundation for a great oral care routine at home. Before teeth erupt, you probably knew to clean your son's or daughter's gums with a clean, damp cloth or wet gauze square. When that first tooth appears, however, use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a smear of toothpaste – both available in kits like My First Colgate™ – twice a day. This smear should be the size of a grain of rice. After the age of three, you can use a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste, such as Colgate® Kids Dora the Explorer, once your child is old enough to spit it out rather than swallow it.
When in doubt, observe and follow the dentist's example: Help your child brush until he grasps the manual dexterity needed to brush his own teeth, up to seven to eight years of age.
The first dental visit can be a challenging new event for a young child. The best thing a parent can do is be positive and pleasant about the experience, which is crucial to a first visit. Ideally, the goal should be for you and your child to have a fun, exciting and educational appointment. After all, this is an opportunity for parents to learn how best to care for their children's teeth, and to ensure lifelong oral health habits.
About the author: Diana Tosuni-O'Neill is a registered dental hygienist in New York and New Jersey with over 25 years of clinical experience in dental hygiene practice. She was employed for over 15 years with the team dentist for the sports teams the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Nets and the New Jersey Devils. Diana is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and a Group Fitness Instructor. Her passion for the dental and fitness fields spans over two decades. She is also a freelance writer specializing in oral health care. She has won an award for Excellent Customer Service from National Wholesale Company. She enjoys traveling, gardening, decorating and her fitness workouts. Diana presently resides outside Manhattan with her two children.