A child’s first dental visit is an essential part of healthy development. One of the most common questions we hear from our patients with kids is, “How old should children be when they get their first dental check-up?”
The answer to this question has changed dramatically for Dr. Jennifer McLeod and the team at Newberg Family Dental over the last 30 years. We used to tell parents that a child’s first dental visit should occur at three years of age. The reasons for this particular age recommendation had much to do with the dentist’s ability to be able to manage the child in the dental chair. We now know this age is much later than ideal, and that a child’s first dental visit should happen much sooner.
Ideal Age for a Child’s Dental Check Up
At Newberg Family Dental, we now prefer to see a child for his or her first dental visit as soon as teeth erupt from their gums. The age range tends to span between six months and one year of age. Although the development from child to child varies, 9 months of age is a good average when it comes to this initial dental check-up.
Why So Early for a Dental Visit?
Nine months of age may seem young for a first dental visit, especially since recommendations not too long ago suggested that children should be two or three years of age. However, recent research shows children seen early and given easy fluoride varnish applications at an early age have significantly fewer dental cavities than those seen at a later age. Good dental habits with all family members can be encouraged as the child grows and develops, and seeing a dentist at this early stage of life builds a solid relationship and positive experiences when it comes to going to the dentist.
In addition, Dr. McLeod can evaluate potential problems over time, such as tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, and pacifier use as well as assessing important developmental milestones. We can also encourage good nutrition as our patients grow and develop, helping overall well-being as well as good dental health.
What to Expect at Early Dental Visits
These early dental exams are done with a” knee-to-knee exam,” where Dr. McLeod works on building a good relationship with her young patients in a safe and comfortable environment. If old enough, young children are introduced to the important elements of the dental office, such as the different staff members, the dentist chair, the light, sunglasses, and the tooth polisher. Dr. McLeod and her team use this opportunity to help children feel comfortable and relaxed while visiting the dentist in order to ensure a positive experience.
Once comfortable, the child lies in the parents lap, and Dr. McLeod is able to check the teeth for beginning problems as well as apply the fluoride varnish to the teeth. This is also an ideal time to coach the parents with tooth brushing and flossing advice and to discuss good food habits. Dr. McLeod then can set up a regular schedule of dental visits for each young patient in order to encourage the best dental health.
At Newberg Family Dental, 2e love seeing the kids at this early age. It is a fun appointment for both the child and the dentist and sets the stage for healthy kids! To set an appointment for your child, call 503.538.7717 or contact us online.