When you bring your child in for his or her first dentist appointment, an oral X-ray should kick off a gentle exam by the dentist. An X-ray of baby teeth shows any underlying dental issues that may not be visible to the naked eye. And when detected early enough, your dentist will be able to treat these problems before they progress into something more advanced.
Here's how to get your child ready for their first appointment.
When to Visit
If your child hasn't been to the dentist yet, it may already be time to schedule this visit. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) recommends doing so when the first tooth erupts or by their first birthday – whichever comes first. Beforehand, you should already be getting your child into his or her own brushing routine with a toothpaste for kids, such as the Colgate® My First® Fluoride-Free. After this inaugural appointment, however, a more basic checkup every six months will help to prevent cavities and other dental problems, both now and in the future.
The type of X-ray and how frequently it's needed will depend on your child's age, oral health and dentist's recommendation. Someone that is at risk for early caries, for example, may require an X-ray twice per year to track this high susceptibility, whereas a cavity-free child won't need them quite as often. The dentist will determine if an X-ray is needed.
What to Expect the First Time
Even though your child only has "primary" teeth, they're still important with respect to the path they make for permanent teeth to grow in six years later. At the first dentist appointment, expect to answer several questions about your child's oral health and home care so the doctor can properly analyze the final radiograph.
Of course, you'll have your own questions as well. Keep in mind taking an X-ray of baby teeth at this stage is considered safe for children because it emits a healthy, minimal amount of radiation. The dental hygienist conducting these X-rays will be just as careful to cover your child in a protective lead apron. If your little one is intimidated by the experience, try sitting in the dentist chair to show them there's nothing unsafe about the process. The dentist will also give you tips for parental care, and your child will more than likely walk away with a memento from the office as a reward.
How to Find the Right Practice
Finding the right dentist for your child takes a bit of research. Ask your pediatrician, extended family, friends and network of parents for a referral. You can also explore reviews online for reputable dental practices in your area. Above all, look for a practice that is known for treating its youngest patients well. Selecting a pediatric dentist who specializes in little teeth and keeping first-timers comfortable can make it easier (and more entertaining) for your child in the long run. The best pediatricians have plenty of toys and unafraid kids around for your own to play with, while staff themselves will have fun props and models to lighten the mood.
Visiting the dentist doesn't have to be scary, even the first time, and it all starts with you. Find the dentist with whom you're most comfortable treating your child, and show your son or daughter the importance of taking charge of lifelong oral health.