What Age Should a Child See a Pediatric Dentist
You may be surprised to learn that your child should see their Pediatric Dentist before their first birthday! Most American children do not see their family dentist until they are well over 2 years old, far later than is recommended by both dental and medical professionals. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends children go to the dentist by the age of 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts through the gums, which typically begins at around 6 months of age.
Importance of Primary Teeth
Most parents think that they do not need to take their child to the dentist because they are too young or do not have enough teeth. A lack of dental insurance can also be a factor as parents decide when to take their children to the dentist. Primary teeth are actually very important to the growth and development of a child. According to the AAPD, it is very important to keep baby teeth in place until they are lost naturally. The primary teeth are important for a number of reasons including:
- Helping children chew properly to maintain good nutrition
- Development of speech patterns
- Maintaining space for permanent teeth
Primary teeth also aid in promoting a healthy smile that helps children feel confident about their appearance. The first dental visit is a great way for parents to learn how to care for their child’s teeth and overall oral health.
First Dental Visit
Dental visits are a common cause of anxiety for patients of all ages and can last throughout their lifetime. If you begin taking your children to the dentist around the time their first tooth erupts, they will probably be too young to be nervous. If you wait until your child is older when most of their primary teeth have come in, then they may have some anxiety during the first visit.
It can be very beneficial not only to your child but to you and their dentist if you begin practicing at home where they feel safe and comfortable. Make a game of pretending to be the dentist with your child and let them play the dentist while you are the patient! You can count their teeth and show them how to “open wide” when asked. There are also a number of books available that you can read together and learn about the dentist and what they can expect when they go.
Another great way to prepare your child is by taking them along to your next cleaning! Call ahead before your own appointment to make sure that the office will allow your child to sit on your lap during your entire appointment before you go. When the hygienist begins, they can talk to your child and let them watch everything that they do. Seeing you have your teeth cleaned and examined as you remain calm and comfortable will help them understand that it is normal and nothing to be afraid of.
Finding a Pediatric Dentist
While your child is still young, it can be ideal to have them see a Pediatric Dentist who specializes in the care of children. Even though general dentists also go through pediatric training in dental school, Pedodontists continue their specialty training. Oftentimes, children have behavioral conditions that require focused care and the staff at pediatric offices are trained to provide the best care for your child at every point in their visit. Some general dentists are willing to see children though it varies by practice. Once they are old enough, your child’s Pediatric Dentist will help to seamlessly transition them into your general family dentist.
Pediatric Dentists specialize in the education of children and their parents in preventative care for the healthy development of teeth and gums. Proper brushing and flossing are important to learn early so that they can be carried throughout adulthood. Knowing when to introduce toothpaste and floss can be challenging but your Pedodontist is there to instruct you when the time is right! Your child’s diet will also play a factor in tooth development as will pacifier and thumb sucking habits. A pediatric dentist is there to help guide you to the best care for your child’s individual habits and needs.
The best way to find a reputable Pediatric Dentist is through referrals from friends and family. Your own Dentist may also have a few names to give you.