1. When should you take your child to the dentist for the first time?
2. Should I take my child to a pediatric dentist or a general dentist?
3. How often do kids need to go to the dentist?
4. What should parents expect to happen at their child’s first visit?
5. Any tips on making that first trip easier or easing nervousness around going to the dentist?
Our group of mamas recommends a couple of ways to get your little prepped for his or her first visit:
- Use books and websites to get ready. There are many books available at the library and for purchase that will share info with your child on what that first visit will entail. The ADA also has a great website, Mouth Healthy Kids, that has resources, games, and videos to help acclimate your kiddos for their first visit.
- Use role playing to help share with your child what they can expect at that first visit. This Alma’s Designs Dentist Kit is soft and perfect for kids to use on their dolls, their parents, or each other. Or, if you’d rather skip being the patient, this PLAYMOBIL Dentist and Patient Playset would be perfect.
- Take a tour of the office before the actual visit. We did this with both of our kids just by having them come to the dentist with us. They sat in the waiting room, came back while we had our check-ups and then were able to sit in the big chair, just for fun. It really helped to lessen any fears and make the whole experience more comfortable.
6. What if my special needs child has serious anxiety or nervousness?
Rest assured, you are in a great area for this. Most likely, a pediatric dentist would be a better fit for kiddos who are especially nervous or uncertain about their trip to the dentist. One of our writers, Kate Fletcher, describes her family’s first visits to the dentist as ‘epic disasters’. She now takes her kiddos to Dr. William O. Dahlke, Jr at VCU School of Dentistry because of his experience in caring for special needs children. These days, the Fletcher family’s visits to the dentist are 100% tear-free. SCORE!
7. AND….EEK!! When should my child see the orthodontist?
The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have a check-up with an orthodontic specialist, a dentist that specializes for 2-3 years beyond dental school in straightening the teeth and aligning the bite, no later than age 7.
WHAT the WHAT? Braces at age 7??
To be clear, seven is the recommended age for SCREENING, not the recommended age for braces. 🙂 At age 7, the incisors and first molars have started to erupt and the bite is becoming established. According to Dr. Melanie Spears, orthodontist with Virginia Family Dentistry, this visit allows the orthodontist to evaluate your child’s teeth and jaw development and identify any potential problems. Early detection and the appropriate treatment can be helpful in reducing orthodontic problems as your child grows.
So, happy National Dentist Day! Hopefully, we’ve helped answer some of your questions and, at a minimum, pointed you in the direction of resources that can help you further. Have a cute pic of your little one at the dentist? Post their pic in the comments!