The ideal time is six months after your child’s first (primary) teeth erupt. This time frame is a perfect opportunity for the dentist to carefully examine the development of your child’s mouth. Because dental problems often start early, the sooner the visit the better.
To safeguard against problems such as baby bottle tooth decay, teething irritations, gum disease, and prolonged thumb-sucking, the dentist can provide or recommend special preventive care.
How do I prepare my child and myself for the visit?
Before the visit, ask the dentist about the procedures of the first appointment so there are no surprises. Plan a course of action for either reaction your child may exhibit-cooperative or non-cooperative. Very young children may be fussy and not sit still. Talk to your child about what to expect, and build excitement as well as understanding about the upcoming visit. Bring with you to the appointment any records of your child’s complete medical history.
What will happen on the first visit?
Many first visits are nothing more than introductory icebreakers to acquaint your child with the dentist and the practice. If the child is frightened, uncomfortable or non-cooperative, a rescheduling may be necessary. Patience and calm on the part of the parent and reassuring communication with your child are very important in these instances. Short, successive visits are meant to build the child’s trust in the dentist and the dental office, and can prove invaluable if your child needs to be treated later for any dental problem.
Child appointments should always be scheduled earlier in the day, when your child is alert and fresh. For children under 24-36 months, the parent may need to sit in the dental chair and hold the child during the examination. Also, parents may be asked to wait in the reception area so a relationship can be built between your child and the dentist.
If the child is compliant, the first session often lasts between 15-30 minutes and may include the following, depending on age:
- A gentle but thorough examination of the teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues to monitor growth and development and observe any problem areas;
- If indicated, a gentle cleaning, which includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tartar build-up and stains;
- A demonstration on proper home cleaning; and,
- Assessment of the need for fluoride.
The dentist should be able to answer any questions you have and try to make you and your child feel comfortable throughout the visit. The entire dental team and the office should provide a relaxed, non-threatening environment for your child.
When should the next visit be?
Children, like adults, should see the dentist every six months. Some dentists may schedule interim visits for every 3 months when the child is very young to build up a comfort and confidence level, or to treat a developing problem.