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When Should My Child See a Dentist?

big toddler with long, curly hair sitting in a dental chair smiling and looking up at a dentist that is out of the shot except the corner of her face

In a 2009 study conducted by Morpace for Delta Dental Plans Association, it was found the average age for a child’s first dental visit was 2.6 years. According to The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, however, it is recommended that children see their dentist approximately six months after their first tooth erupts. Since the first teeth usually erupts around the age of six months, this puts the ideal time for a child’s first dental visit at one year.

There are a few main benefits to taking your child to the dentist at this early age. The first one is that taking them to the dentist ensures their primary teeth will be well taken care of from the beginning. Although some people may believe that primary teeth are not important since they will eventually be replaced by adult teeth, primary teeth are important in their own way.

Primary teeth can still develop cavities, tooth decay, and trauma, thus it is important to take care of them. If primary teeth are not properly taken care of it can cause the child to not eat or speak properly. Primary teeth are also responsible for holding a space for permanent teeth and if they are lost prematurely this could cause spacing problems when the permanent teeth come in.

Another important benefit of taking your child to the dentist at the young age of one as opposed to waiting until the age of two, is that it will help them to be less anxious about the dentist. When children are younger, they tend to feel less anxiety about situations. Thus, a visit to the dentist will simply become part of their established routine and by the time they are older, they won’t feel the extra anxiety about the dentist that most kids have.

If you chose to wait until your child turned two to visit the dentist, there are still some things you can do to alleviate their anxiety. One thing you can do is schedule your own dental visit and let your child watch the checkup to prepare. Together you and your dentist can explain what is happening so your child can see that a trip to the dentist is not a bad thing.

In addition you can also make it a game with your child and play “dentist”. While you play, you and your child can take turns being the dentist and the patient. This establishes familiarity with the dental examination process. This familiarity will help the child not fear the dentist since they have an idea of what will happen. Furthermore, it will make it seem more like a game.

Finally you will want to pay attention to the timing of the appointment. You will want to schedule the appointment and allow yourself plenty of time before and after so you don’t need to be rushed or stressed about being late. You also want to make sure your child has had enough rest that day so they are not excessively cranky or tired.