Your child’s first trip to the dentist should fall sometime between the ages of one and two years old. Since many children need braces or other forms of dental care throughout their young life, establishing a good relationship with your dentist sets your family up for success from an early age.
Treating or preventing dental problems in children (and in adults) is also much easier if you catch issues when they first appear. Approximately 25 percent of children will have a cavity by the age of four, so a trip to the dentist is never too early, once teeth start to appear.
Your child’s first visit to the dentist is usually short and sweet, so rest easy.
Getting to Know You
During the first part of the exam, your dentist may spend time introducing himself or herself to your child and gauging their personality. Let your child interact naturally with the dentist. It’s important not to rush right into business, so your child has time to get acclimated to the new situation and environment.
Next, your dentist will talk to you and your child about your oral hygiene habits and routine. He or she might ask questions about thumb sucking, diet, brushing and any concerns you have. The dentist will examine your child’s bite and existing teeth and likely use a dental model to show your child how to properly brush his or her teeth.
Getting to Know the Dentist’s Chair
Your dentist will use this opportunity to reduce any fear or anxiety over future visits by introducing your child to the dentist’s chair and to the tools and machinery around the office. Letting your child see the suction and cleaning devices will make cleanings and maintenance less stressful because he or she will already know what to expect.
If necessary, the dentist may use an electric tooth polisher or manual brush to clean your child’s teeth. If there are any visible stains or decay, the doctor will take care of those at this time. Depending on your child’s teeth and habits, the dentist may prescribe a fluoride treatment to strengthen your child’s enamel and protect against decay.
At the end of your visit, the dentist will schedule your child’s next visit (usually every six months for young patients). If additional treatment is necessary, he or she may schedule a follow-up visit sooner. Traditionally, children get their first dental X-rays between the ages of five and six, so you shouldn’t expect to do that on your first visit unless there is cause for concern.
After your child’s first dental appointment, you may want to reward your child for the visit. Seeing the dentist can seem scary, so ending your exam with some positive reinforcement makes the experience memorable in a good way. Whether you buy your child a new toothbrush that has his or her favorite cartoon character on it, take him or her out for a healthy treat or take your child to see a new movie, celebrating a successful visit makes the next trip much easier.
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3 Ways to Make Oral Hygiene Fun for Kids
To help keep your kids’ teeth healthy, make oral hygiene fun, with the following tips.
1. Accessorize. Make brushing fun by letting your kids pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste. A little sparkle or color goes a long way in making brushing feel like a special occasion.
2. All in the Family. Brush together! Your children learn good habits by watching you. Make brushing and flossing a family affair to keep your kids coming back for more.
3. Reward System. Motivate your kids to take care of their teeth and do other chores by establishing a reward system. You can use a star chart, stickers or other system to illustrate how many points your child has accumulated for each job well done. Once they have accumulated a certain number of points, the children get a reward. You might be surprised at how easy it will be to get your children to brush their teeth and floss regularly!