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When Should a Child See a Dentist for the First Time

The recommendation for when a child's first dental visit should occur vary considerably. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children be seen within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or no later than one year of age. The American Academy of General Dentistry recommends between 18 and 24 months of age, unless there is an apparent problem. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a child be seen by age three, or sooner if there is a need. At Camarillo Smiles, we tend to go along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and recommend that a child be seen by age three, or sooner if there is a need.

child brushing teeth

There is a reason for a visit earlier. Although there may not be many teeth to examine at one year of age, the first visit is designed to provide parents with valuable information regarding care and prevention of their infant's teeth through education and counseling. Infants can be infected with the bacteria that cause tooth decay very early in their life. We would love to talk about your infant's dental care at your regular appointment with us.

Things we need to talk about:

  • A review of your infant's diet and nutrition
  • The need for fluoride supplementation considering dietary and other sources of fluoride
  • Instructions for cleaning the teeth and gums
  • Discussion regarding pacifier, finger, or other oral habits
  • Injury prevention and trauma
  • Oral development and normal eruption patterns
  • Risk factors for decay

Ideally, we would like you to make the first visit appointment as early in the day as possible. Toddlers are usually more rested in the morning. If you have any dental fears yourself, try not to communicate them to your child. Most kid's have a real good time with us. Your interpretations and expectations are different from your child's. Let them have their own experience. Even saying something like, "we have to go to the dentist today" instead of "we get to go to the dentist" can have a negative affect on your child. Practice with your child's head on your lap. Depending on the age, explain how he or she should open wide, talk about the little mirror, the tooth counter, and Mr. Clean, who will make the teeth shine. Avoid words such as hurt, drill, or shot. Do not expect too much from your child. We will manage the behavior with age-appropriate expectations. A favorite toy or blanket can be taken with the child to hold. The book, Going to the Dentist, by Fred Rogers, is a great way to introduce the first visit. And there are many other books out there that are wonderful and are often available at our own Camarillo Library.

The child's temperament will determine how the appointment goes. We call these "Happy Visits" because we are bound and determined to have it be a Happy visit. Do not delay the first visit because you believe your child will not cooperate. You may be pleasantly surprised!

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