If your child has their first few teeth, you might be wondering what age you should take your little one to the dentist.
If your child has their first few teeth, you might be wondering what age you should take your little one to the dentist. And how will they possibly sit still and let a stranger look in their mouth? Without screaming!
At Adelaide Quality Dental, we want your toddler to have a fun first experience, so as they grow up (with healthy teeth and gums), going to the dentist will never be a drama.
What age should you take your child?
Here’s an easy way to remember – ‘first visit by first birthday’.
Although many children don’t have their first proper dental check-up until they’re toddlers or older, the Australian Dental Association encourages parents to take them to the dentist when they’re babies. By caring for their teeth early, you’ll set them up with healthy oral habits and any dental problems won’t get out of hand.
We like to make sure we’ve seen your little one for a check-up by the time they’re three years old.
Get your little one ready to visit the dentist.
While the first visit can just be to familiarise your child with the dentist and to ride in the big chair, some preparation can really pay off.
Be positive Even if your child is still a baby, talk about the dentist without using any negative words. Mention the word ‘dentist’ a lot and make it sound happy. If you do have dental anxiety, try not to let on. Be honest and explain to your child what’s happening and why they’re going to the dentist.
Look after your own teeth Let your child watch you brush and floss morning and night. Even if they only have two front teeth, gently let them feel a toothbrush in their mouth and get them used to fingers poking around in there.
Play! Pretend you’re all going to the dentist, where your child can be the patient lying back in the dentist chair and you the dentist – “Aaahh, open your mouth…” Make it fun and exciting, using props like toothbrushes, bright lights, rinsing cups, spit bowls, bibs. Or invite all their stuffed toys for a check-up.
Make it part of story time Try books about visiting the dentist. Some classics are Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer and Doctor De Soto by William Steig.
Take them to a dentist you feel comfortable with If you’re anxious about going to the dentist, your child can pick up on that. Try to be calm and confident – chat with your dentist about ways we can help make your little one feel relaxed and positive about their first visit, then you also know what to expect. Why not bring your child when you come in to see us yourself, even if it’s just to get them used to someone other than Mum or Dad having a look at their teeth. It may take a couple of times before they let anyone go near their teeth.
Go as a family Of course, Mum or Dad will sit in with them during their first check-up, but if you can all go for an appointment at the same time, it can make it less scary – “See, Mum and Dad get to go in the dentist chair, too.”
What will happen at their first visit?
Hello there Expect the first appointment to be short and toddler-friendly, possibly without a full oral examination – it’s simply a chance for your child to suss out the dentist. Depending on how old they are, you might be asked to hold them while the dentist looks in their mouth, help them get into the big chair (“Look how it goes up and down”), or wait back so they can get to know the dentist and staff on their own.
Try out the dentist stuff Your dentist will show your child how things work – “Let’s spit into the sink and hear it make some silly sucking noises”, “This light is bright so you need sunglasses”, “This is a mask that we look funny in”, “Let’s blow up a glove and make a face on it”, etc. This will take the mystery out of it all and make it fun.
Let’s look in your mouth Then the dentist will check your tot’s teeth (if any) for development and decay, plus look at their bite, gums, jaws and tongue. During this, the dentist might turn on the TV to distract them a little.
We’ll make your teeth nice and clean If your child is ready (we’ll never make them have a cleaning procedure), the dentist may clean and polish their teeth with a rotary toothbrush (“Mr Grumbly makes lots of noise”), while your tot wears sunglasses to protect their eyes.
And put some special stuff on them A final step may be to apply topical fluoride or your dentist may save this for when they’re older (we wouldn’t normally give fluoride to children unless they’re high risk). Digital X-rays are also usually held off until further development.
Talk with Mum and Dad The dentist will chat with you about any findings with your child’s teeth, development, good oral hygiene habits and how to go forward with regular check-ups and cleans. Ask any questions you may have about toddler teething, thumb sucking or tooth-friendly foods (bring a list).
Would you like a sticker? A dental-themed grab bag with a soft new toothbrush and stickers is a great way to get kids to think the dentist is a fun place to go – and happy to come back again.
Let’s brush your teeth Your dentist can show your child how to take good care of their teeth, and brush and floss with your help. Put a timer on for two minutes and practise brushing their teeth gently.
If your child’s little teeth are ready for their first check-up speak to us now for an appointment.