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Your Child's First Dental Visit

At what age should a child visit a dentist for the first time?

It is generally recommended that an infant be seen by a dentist by the age of 1 or within 6 months after his or her first tooth comes in.

What happens at the first dental visit?

The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. This visit gives your child an opportunity to meet the dentist in a non-threatening and friendly way. Some dentists may ask the parent to sit in the dental chair and hold their child during the examination. The parent may also be asked to wait in the reception area during part of the visit so that a relationship can be built between your child and the dentist.

During the examination, the dentist will check all of your child’s existing teeth for decay, examine your child’s bite, and look for any potential problems with the gums, jaw, and oral tissues. If indicated, the dentist will clean any teeth and assess the need for fluoride. He or she will also educate parents about oral health care basics for children and discuss dental developmental issues and answer any questions.

Topics your dentist may discuss with you might include:

  • Good oral hygiene practices for your child’s teeth and gums
  • Cavity prevention
  • Fluoride needs
  • Oral habits (thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking)
  • Developmental milestones
  • Teething
  • Proper nutrition
  • Schedule of dental checkup visits. Many dentists like to see children every 6 months to build up the child’s comfort and confidence level in visiting the dentist, to monitor the development of the teeth, and to promptly treat any developing problems.

It’s important to know that the parent or legal guardian who accompanies the child for this first visit will be asked to complete medical and health information forms concerning the child. Come prepared with the necessary information.

What’s the difference between a pediatric dentist and a regular dentist?

A pediatric dentist has at least two additional years of training beyond dental school. The additional training focuses on management and treatment of a child’s developing teeth, child behavior, physical growth and development, and the special needs of children’s dentistry. Although either type of dentist is capable of addressing your child’s oral health care needs, a pediatric dentist, his or her staff, and even the office dècor are all geared to care for children and to put them at ease. If your child has special needs, care from a pediatric dentist should be considered. Ask your dentist or your child’s physician what he or she recommends for your child.

When should children get their first dental X-ray?

There is no hard and fast rule for when to start getting dental x-rays. Some children who may be at higher risk for dental problems (for example, those prone to baby bottle tooth decay or those with cleft lip/palate) should have x-rays taken earlier than others. Usually, most children will have had x-rays taken by the age of 5 or 6. As children begin to get their adult teeth (at about the age of 6), x-rays play an important role in helping your dentist see if all of the adult teeth are growing in the jaw, to look for bite problems, and to determine if teeth are clean and healthy.

References

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/23/2012...#10965