The American Dental Association recommends that all children should visit the dentist after their first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday to help prevent cavities.1 While this may sound early, children can develop cavities as soon as they have teeth. Being proactive about your child’s oral health can keep their teeth healthy for years come.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 21% of children aged two to five had untreated cavities. In fact, dental caries (the scientific term for cavities) are the most common chronic disease among children aged 6 to 19 years.2 Visiting the dentist and adopting oral hygiene practices can help prevent these issues.
How to prepare your child for the dentist
- Talk to your child about what a dentist does
- Have them practice opening their mouth
- Read books and watch videos about first dental visits. Your child should be both enthusiastic about going to the dentist as well as informed, even in a rudimentary way, about what it is that a dentist does.3 Their first dental visit should like an exciting adventure for them, rather than a scary one.
- Take your child to the dentist in the morning, to ensure they are more alert and awake.4
- Finding a pediatric dentist, as they are more likely to be equipped with things like decorations and toys that will help ease your child’s mind.
Preparation is important because every child—even when you have told them about what to expect—will react differently to being at the dentist. The University of Rochester Medical Center put together a list of how children might react:5
- 10 to 24 months: A securely attached child may get upset when separated from their parents for a dental exam.
- Two to three years of age: A securely attached child can typically cope with a brief separation from their parents. In response to the separation, "No" may be a common response from the child.
- Three years of age: A three-year-old may struggle being separated from a parent when having a dental procedure like a cavity filling.
- Four years of age: A four-year-old should be able to be separated from their parents for dental exams and treatments.
What happens during my child’s first dental visit?
During your child’s first dental visit, you will learn important information about your child’s development, particularly if there is anything in their mouth that has gone awry. The dentist will administer a full exam of the teeth, jaws, bite, gums and oral tissues. This will help ensure that all developmental processes are functioning as they should. The doctor may also opt to clean their teeth, or in the case of an infant, their singular tooth.6
You may find it helpful to get the paperwork necessary for the dentist done beforehand, if possible, to help you make it a faster experience for your child.7 Keeping things short and sweet is a great way to help ensure that your child stays calm. It’s also important to make sure that you are calm as well. If you’re not calm, your child is likely to sense that and become scared.
Finally, you should make sure that your child is set up to handle their oral care in the future. Although a baby does not have the fine motor skills to brush their teeth on their own, helping them do it is a great way to instill healthy oral hygiene practices while teaching them to take initiative about their oral health as they grow older.
Dental insurance can help encourage healthy habits
Oral health is linked to overall health and dental insurance plays a roll in helping you maintain your health. Americans with dental benefits are more likely to go to the dentist, take their children to the dentist, receive restorative care and experience greater overall health.8 Help protect more than just your child’s teeth with dental insurance coverage.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. This is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.