At What Age Should Your Child First Visit the Dentist?
According to a recent survey on American oral health, it is common in the United States for American children to not see their family dentist until they are over the age of 2 years old. However, this is actually far later than is recommended by dental professionals. This survey also revealed that approximately 34% of children had not seen the dentist yet at all. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children go to the dentist within six months after their first tooth erupts or before they are 1 year old. Baby teeth typically start to grow in around 6 months.
Baby Teeth are Important
It is a common misconception that children do not need to visit the dentist because the children are too young and don’t have a full mouth of teeth yet. The other issue preventing children from seeing a dentist may be the lack of dental insurance for the young children. Despite what most believe, it is actually very important to visit the dentist and have their help keeping primary (or “baby”) teeth healthy and in place until they are lost naturally. Baby teeth are important for many reasons including:
- Helping children learn to chew properly to maintain good nutrition.
- Helping children learn to speak properly.
- Helping save space for permanent teeth.
- Promoting a healthy smile that helps children develop good self-esteem.
Baby teeth are important not only to immediate health, but to lifelong oral health. These teeth and visits the dentist also play a role in helping to learn good oral hygiene habits, such as proper techniques for brushing and flossing, that will ensure lifelong oral health.
The First Visit to the Dentist
The first dentist visit is an important experience for the parents and the child. The first visit is an important opportunity for parents to learn how best to care for their children’s teeth. For the child, if they begin visiting the dentist when their first tooth erupts, then they are too young to be nervous. By establishing this routine early, you can avoid the anxiety that may develop when the child is older and has never been to the dentist before. In addition to starting early, there are a few things you can do to reduce the fear of the dentist, including:
- Give your child a preview. One way to give your child some exposure without them receiving any dental care is to take your child with you to your next dental visit so they can see you having your teeth examined.
- Learn more about it. There are many books and online resources geared toward teaching children more about dental health and dentist visits.
- Play dentist. Take turns being the dentist and the patient with your child. Examine each other’s teeth or use your fingers to count teeth so that your child will be familiar with having a dentist examine their mouth.
- Plan ahead. Plan ahead so that the dental visit isn’t rushed, and make sure your child gets enough sleep before the visit so that he or she feels relaxed and comfortable.
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