When Do I Start Taking My Child To The Dentist?
Parents often ask me when the right time to start taking their children to the dentist is and I’m sure that the answer varies depending on who you ask.
I believe that it is important to start developing a happy, positive relationship with the dentist from an early age and history has shown us what can happen when children have a scary experience that can stay with them for their entire lives. I recommend that kids start their journey with the dentist at 4yrs old and this is why.
Babies do not have teeth to start with and have relatively low numbers of bacteria present in their mouths, so unless there is a problem or concern, it is not necessary to examine them at this time.
Once the deciduous or baby teeth begin to break through, there are not many complications or problems during this process, except for perhaps a few sleepless nights for you. It is possible for small cysts to develop (eruption cysts) as teeth come through, but you will notice a lump. Some children teethe really rapidly, while it may seem like it is taking others ages to cut their little teeth, there is nothing you can do to predict which way your child will go, but timing is not overly problematic. More importantly during this time, is to start weaning them off of dummies and thumb sucking habits, these will cause much bigger issues if left ignored.
For some reason, I have had a large number of 3yr olds coming in with trauma to their teeth. It seems to be a high risk age group for falls, trips and other accidents that can knock their front teeth. Do no panic, bring them straight in and they will be able to be looked at immediately.
By the age of 4, children are well on the way to developing their individual personalities and are starting to understand things just as much as they question them. This is a great age to begin their dental experience as they have all of their deciduous teeth, are able to understand simple instructions and will accept that going the dentist is just what happens if you get them into the routine now.
To prepare your child, you can tell them that they will be going to see the dentist soon to have their teeth checked. You can practice opening wide and showing each other your teeth. You can pretend that you are checking their teeth and have them sitting on your lap, leaning back onto the couch. Make it fun, laugh, play around with it, check teddies teeth or Thomas the tank engines, older siblings…. This engages them and gets them used to someone looking at their teeth.
When you come in, make them feel really special and important, being their first trip to the dentist. Make sure you let the staff know as well, so that we can get involved as well. This first visit is mainly to introduce them to the dental environment, smells, funny people wearing masks etc and leave your child with a positive experience. From here each visit builds upon the last until your child is able to sit in the chair by themselves, have a full examination and polish without fear, worry or problems and hopefully, having fun along the way.