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The idea of an infant, barely walking, sitting in a dentist’s office ready to have their newly erupted tooth or teeth examined is usually not a concept that is commonly seen or heard of.
However, it shouldn’t be considered unusual or strange. In fact, it is recommended that a child visit a dentist at least once by the time they turn 1 year of age or within 6 months of the arrival of their first tooth.
Why should children visit the dentist?
The goal of taking children for dental exams is to have a dentist take a look at their teeth before your child experiences any problems which may require more intensive treatment. Usually, a bi-yearly dental exam is sufficient to detect any problems.
Unfortunately, many people do not bring their children to see the dentist until they are over 2 years of age, and sometimes much later than is recommended by dental and medical professionals. Children should be taken for dental exams for the following reasons:
- You can determine if the daily teeth cleaning you do at home with your child is sufficient
- Your child can become comfortable with the idea of visiting the dentist regularly
- Any problems can be detected early and treated right away
- The dentist may suggest sealing your child’s permanent molars to protect them from cavities
- The dentist can determine whether your child’s teeth are crowded or crooked and whether they will cause problems with eating, teeth cleaning, and the overall appearance of their teeth
- To apply a filling to a primary tooth which has been broken or infected, before it worsens and the tooth has to be pulled out.
Primary teeth, more commonly known as baby teeth, usually begin to appear around 6 months of age. As more of your child’s baby teeth begin to pop up, they may go through quite a fussy and uncomfortable period as they begin teething. Waiting until your child is 2 years or more is usually too long, and an initial visit to the dentist is warranted much earlier.
What is the importance of my child’s primary teeth?
Why are a baby’s primary teeth so important if they’re going to be falling out eventually? Unfortunately, one of the reasons why many parents don’t take their children to visit the dentist earlier is because they fail to recognize the importance of their child’s primary teeth.
A child’s primary teeth, although destined to fall out eventually, should be taken care of until they fall out naturally. Their baby teeth play an important role in their lifelong oral health. A child’s primary teeth should be taken care off for many reasons, including:
- Their involvement in a child’s speech development
- They serve as place holders for the permanent teeth
- They allow children to properly chew their food and maintain good nutrition
- They help children maintain a healthy smile which promotes confidence
Many parents are unfamiliar with how to best care for their children’s primary teeth. Providing the right education to help parents implement the proper techniques for brushing and flossing for their children is key to their lifelong oral health. Taking your child to the dentist for their initial visit once their first primary tooth has arrived is a great way for parents to learn the best ways to maintain their children’s oral health.
Dealing with First Visit Jitters
When a baby is around the age of 6 months and experiences the eruption of their first tooth, they are usually too young to understand what’s happening when they visit a dentist. This means first visit jitters are usually not a problem for such children.
Unfortunately, it may not be as simple for an older child, past the age of 2, visiting the dentist for the first time. An older child may be nervous or anxious prior to their first visit to the dentist, with the idea of unfamiliar machinery and a stranger taking a look inside their mouth, being new to them.
Luckily, there are some simple ways you can help prepare your child for their first visit to the dentist so it can be a smooth and successful experience for them. As a parent, you could try:
1. Giving them a preview
It may be too much for your child to visit a new office and have their teeth examined all in one day. A better option may be to take your child with you on your next visit to the dentist so they can watch you undergo your dental examination and cleaning. They’ll feel more relaxed undergoing their dental check-up, knowing there’s nothing to fear.
2. Educate your child
If your child has a fear of the unknown, educate them so that visiting the dentist becomes a familiar concept. There are many great books and resources you can use to help teach your child about what a visit to the dentist involves. Use some fun games and activities to help educate your child and make them feel comfortable about their next visit to the dentist.
3. Prepare for your visit
Like any first experience, you want to be well prepared and have plenty of time, so you and your child don’t feel rushed. If you plan and arrive in advance of your appointment, your child can have some time to settle in and familiarize themselves with the office before seeing the dentist. Additionally, make sure your child is well-rested before their appointment so that they aren’t agitated or cranky.
4. Do a little role-play
Role-playing games can be an excellent way to help children learn while they take on a new role and have fun. You could take turns role-playing a visit to the dentist with your child. Take turns performing a dental examination on one another. The aim of the role play is to help familiarize your child with what they can expect at a dental examination and cleaning.
Teenagers and adults alike are advised to visit the dentist at least twice a year as a part of their oral hygiene practices. However, when it comes to children and toddlers, the importance of regular dental check-ups is diminished, although it certainly shouldn’t be. It’s recommended that children see a dentist after the arrival of their first tooth or at least once before their first birthday.
A child’s primary teeth play a crucial role in their future dental health and serve as place holders for the proper alignment of their adult teeth. Primary teeth should be taken care of with the proper brushing techniques, and a dentist should regularly examine your child’s teeth to detect problems early and prescribe the correct treatment if needed.
To learn more about when you should start bringing your child to the dentist, call Bloor West Smiles Dental today at 416-766-2853 or contact us here.