As a dentist, I am frequently asked, “When should my child first see a dentist?” Parents want to ensure that their child is old enough develop- mentally, but also emotionally for their dental visit.

The best time for a child to see a dentist for the first time is by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth erupting, which typically occurs around the six-month mark. A visit early in the child’s development helps them become familiar with the dental office and gives the parents a chance to ask questions about what to expect and learn how to properly take care of their child’s teeth.

Unfortunately, it is quite common for parents to bring their child into the dentist at the time of their first toothache or the first visible signs of cavities. However, making an effort to provide a good experience at the dentist during early childhood through routine cleanings allows for a child to get acclimated to the dental office environment and develop a positive perception of dental visits. Additionally, routine cleanings will help prevent decay and improve oral health.

Often times, far too little importance is placed on pediatric, or “baby”, teeth. As a child is developing the primary teeth serve a number of important roles. They are involved in the development of speech, in proper chewing function to attain desired nutrition, in saving space for the adult teeth, and also in providing a healthy smile for your child’s confidence that can last a lifetime. Not only are primary teeth important during development, but creating an attitude and mind- set that teeth are important and should be properly maintained will continue into adulthood. The earlier that children and parents can be educated on how to brush, floss, and maintain their teeth the greater the chance they will stick with it later in life.

When you are preparing your child for their first dental appointment it is important to make an effort to desensitize them to the visit. Try bringing them along for one of your routine cleanings. When you’re at home pretend to be the dentist and examine their teeth. Use a mirror if you have one and count their teeth out with your finger. Additionally, if you have an older child who does well at the dentist, let your younger child observe this behavior and learn to not fear the dental office. It never hurts to do some research on the topic ahead of time and there are countless assets and interactive games on the Internet concerning this topic. Browse through the resources offered by the American Dental Association and feel free to contact your local dental office for any advice or tips.

Don’t put it off any longer. Schedule an appointment for your child and get them started down a path of good oral health for life.

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