Did you know that cavities are the most common chronic disease that affects children in the United States? Did you know that approximately 20 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one untreated cavity?
Often, when children struggle with untreated cavities, it's because they're not seeing the dentist on a regular basis, if at all.
Most parents aren't keeping their kids away from the dentist on purpose. There's a lot of confusion among parents when it comes to children's dental care, though.
If you've been wondering, "when should kids go to the dentist?" or "how often should I take my kids to the dentist?" keep reading. Listed below are answers to all your most pressing questions about kids and oral hygiene.
When Should Kids Go to the Dentist for the First Time?
In a perfect world, your child should go to their first dental appointment by the time they turn one year old. That being said, most dentists also agree that kids are usually fine waiting until they're two or three.
The sooner you can get your child in to see the dentist, though, the better off they'll be. Waiting too far beyond their second or third birthday puts your child at risk of developing serious plaque buildup and cavities.
Some parents assume that they don't need to treat their children's baby teeth because they're going to fall out anyway. That's definitely not the case, though.
Remember, their permanent teeth are developing below those baby teeth. If you don't establish good oral hygiene habits now when they're young, your children are going to be more likely to have poor dental health (and need more cavities filled) as they get older.
How Often Should Kids Go to the Dentist?
After their first appointment, it's a good idea for kids to see the dentist with the same frequency as adults. In most cases, this means going in for a cleaning once every six months.
Visiting the dentist two times per year might seem like a lot. Remember, though, that there are a lot of benefits that come with ensuring your child gets regular cleanings and checkups. The following are some of the greatest benefits they'll experience:
Prevent Tooth Decay
When your child sees the dentist on a regular basis, they can clean the teeth thoroughly to minimize the risk of plaque buildup and tooth decay. They can also identify problem areas and keep an eye on them to catch issues as soon as they arise.
Ensure Proper Development
Visiting the dentist regularly also allows them to ensure your child's teeth are developing properly. They can spot potential development issues early and make recommendations to prevent them from getting worse.
Increased Comfort and Confidence
The more often your child goes to the dentist, the more comfortable and confident they'll feel there. The first couple of appointments might be rough. If you stick with it, though, they'll soon start to have a better attitude about seeing the dentist.
How Can I Prepare My Child for the Dentist?
Okay, you can see why it's important to take your child to the dentist on a regular basis and start them young. How do you get your child ready to see the dentist for the first time, though?
Here are some tips that will help you prepare your child for the dentist and ensure their first visit (and subsequent visits) go as smoothly as possible:
Practice at Home
Spend some time playing "dentist" with your child and help them get used to having someone look at their teeth. Let them practice on you, too.
Time It Right
Most kids have certain times of day when they're better behaved than others. Try to schedule their appointment during these times so that they'll be less likely to have a meltdown.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Do your best to maintain a positive attitude about going to the dentist. Stay happy and upbeat, as your child will be able to sense if you're anxious about the visit.
Choose a Pediatric Dentist
If possible, take your child to see a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists have lots of experience working with kids and will know how to handle your child during their first appointment.
You can read more here about easing your child into dentist's visits and help them feel comfortable.
How Can I Keep Their Teeth Healthy at Home?
Regular cleanings are essential if you want your child to have strong, healthy teeth as they get older.
It's not enough to let the dentist clean their teeth twice a year, though. It's also your responsibility to teach your child good oral hygiene from an early age.
Listed below are some basic steps you ought to take to make sure your child is keeping their teeth clean in between checkups:
- Clean your baby's gums gently with a damp washcloth after each meal
- Brush their teeth twice per day for two minutes as soon as their teeth erupt
- Take away bottles when your child is done drinking to prevent baby bottle tooth decay
- Start flossing early, as soon as their teeth begin to touch
- Use fluoride toothpaste for extra cavity prevention benefits
- Assist younger children with brushing to ensure they're covering all their teeth
With older children, it's fine to allow them to brush their own teeth. Be sure to inspect afterward to make sure they haven't missed any spots, though.
Make Your Child's First Dental Appointment Today
It's normal to have a lot of questions about your child's first dental appointment, as well as the dental appointments that follow that one.
Hopefully, you now have answers to questions like "when should kids go to the dentist?" and are feeling a little less confused.
Do you want to learn more about taking care of your child's oral health or their health in general?
If so, check out the Children and Parenting section of our site today. You'll find tons of helpful articles here that will address all your parenting questions and concerns.