iam often asked how frequently a child should visit the dentist, and my answer is simple: As often as you can afford!
Even if you’ve done a good job making your child love brushing, it’s likely that he won’t be great at it (though an electric toothbrush for kids can help clean hard-to-reach places). Meanwhile, older children may have those braces they thought would be cool, but now that the novelty has worn off, the diligent care and treatment they once exhibited may have worn off, too.
Then, of course, there’s the subject of the poor diet that so many children are eating. Diet is the number one factor impacting the health of your child’s teeth and his oral microbiome, and sweets, sodas, and processed carbs aren’t doing him any favors.
I say all of that to say: Children aren’t great at taking care of their teeth, but regular trips to the dentist can help to fill in some of those gap.
The minimum frequency to consider for dental visits is at least once every 6 months. And this schedule won’t just help keep your child’s teeth clean and free of decay. With each visit, your child will become more and more accustomed to—and comfortable with—the office, the staff, and, most importantly, the dentist.
The sooner your child is at peace with his trips to the dentist’s office, the sooner you will be at peace–and the more likely your child will enjoy visiting the dentist for years to come.
The reasons I just touched on are the prime motivators for you to begin taking your little one to the dentist from an early age. I recommend that you schedule your child’s first dentist appointment by his first birthday, at the latest.
Some general dentists don’t recommend visiting the dentist until the child is at least 3. However, the younger a child is at his first dental visit—even if he’s accompanying you to your appointment—the quicker he will become comfortable in the chair.
This is vital particularly important if your child has exhibited early dental issues, including gum disease, high cavity rate, or dry mouth caused by mouth breathing,
What’s the best way to make my child feel comfortable at the dentist?
While it’s important to get your child to the dentist early and often, this is obviously better accomplished if your child feels comfortable at the dentist’s office. Choosing the right dentist has a lot to do with that, but as a parent, there are other things you can do to put your child at ease.
Let him know that the appointment is coming up: Don’t wait until the day before the visit to tell your child that he has an appointment. Children react better when they are given time to mentally prepare.
Read dental-related kids’ books to put your child at ease: Check out the library or the Internet for resources that will help calm and even excite your child about taking care of his teeth and mouth.
Listen to his comments, questions, and concerns: Try to be as forthcoming as you can if your child expresses any worry about the appointment.
Try deep breathing techniques: Encourage your child to breathe slowly and deeply in order to calm their mind and body. This process works before and during the visit.
Emphasize the positive aspects of proper dental care: A childhood filled with quality, consistent dental care will provide a great foundation for your child’s ongoing dental health. Not only will it form good habits, but it will prevent the more serious issues he could have as an adult.
Role play through a dental visit: You won’t have all the supplies, but you can have fun going through some of the possible steps that will occur during a routine visit while having fun pretending with your child.
Clear Signs That Your Child’s Dentist Isn’t the Best Fit
The first and most obvious red flag that a particular dentist or dental practice may not be right for your child is the simplest one: Your child generally hates being there.
There’s a difference between the normal level of nerves that accompanies any dental visit versus an uncomfortable feeling with the office as a whole. And the latter is a sure sign that it’s time to find a new school.
Children have great gut instincts. If he leaves the office unhappy or refuses to listen to any recommendations about brushing, flossing, etc., pay attention. Children don’t normally act that way, and those non-verbal actions and reactions that occur after the visit is over can be the most useful when considering a new dentist.
Have an honest, open conversation with your child upon leaving the office. Statements such as, “The needle stick was no fun,” or “They shouldn’t have had to poke around my mouth or tap on my teeth so much,” can be considered normal complaints about the dentist.
You can typically reason with a child in situations like those (“Well, that momentary sting from an injection was better than having to get a cavity filled”), but comments about the dentist himself, or the dental office, should be carefully heeded
Lastly, pay attention to your own perceptions. With some careful focus, you can make some worthwhile observations as well. Pay attention to whether the staff worked to put your mind at ease during the visit and whether the dentist, assistant, or hygienist come out to speak with you. If these things didn’t happen, it may be time to move on.
What do I do if I disagree with the dentist’s recommendations?
If, at any time, you see significant changes in your child’s oral health—like a sudden increase in cavities, especially in baby teeth that come out between 8 and 10 years old—don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Request x-rays and a copy of your child’s dental plan from the dentist and staff and let them know you are planning to get advice from another dentist.
If a dentist responds negatively or immaturely about your questions, or your desires to have another dentist examine your child and make treatment recommendations, I would seriously suggest leaving that practice.
Even when you think you’ve chosen the right dentist, no decision should be considered permanent. You have a right to change your mind.
Remember, one mouth and one set of permanent teeth is all we get. Isn’t it worth it, then, to be sure your child is treated by the best set of circumstances you can possibly gather?
Hopefully, you’ve come to the end of this article feeling encouraged and equipped! After all, part of loving our sweet children is caring for them both physically and emotionally.
Fostering an atmosphere of good, regular dental checkups with the right dentist hits both of those targets. And when your little one is not so little anymore, he will thank you for providing the tools and encouragement to keep his smile bright for the rest of his life!