When to schedule your child’s first dental visit and how to establish a dental home.


For a first visit, a good rule of thumb is to take your child after her first tooth erupts or by her first birthday, whichever comes first.

Expect a warm welcome from the staff at your pediatric dentist’s office and possibly a tour. The dentist will check your child’s mouth, jaw, gums, and baby teeth. They will also look at the bite and look for any potential problems such as decay.

You’ll learn basic oral health tips and how to establish a “dental home.” Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

  1. Your child’s first visit is the first step in creating a dental home. Starting dental exams at an early age and preventative care at home will protect your infant’s teeth and gums for years to come.
  2. Eliminate bottle feedings during naps and at bedtime to ward off baby bottle tooth decay. Wipe your infant’s gums with a clean damp washcloth after feedings.
  3. Switch children to sippy cups around their first birthday. Only offer juice at meal times, not between meals or at nap and bedtimes. The sugar in juice promotes cavities.
  4. Encourage your child to give up thumbsucking and pacifier around age 3 to 4.
  5. Schedule dental exams with your pediatric dentist twice a year.

At your first visit, you may also learn about brushing and flossing your child’s teeth.

Here are some guidelines to help you remember.

Under 6 years of age. She may say, “I can do it myself,” but really, she can’t. Children need fine motor skills to reach all of their baby teeth including new molars. Allow your child to start brushing, but then take over and finish the job. Or switch it up. You start brushing, and allow her to finish. Either way, make sure she rinses and spits. She should not swallow her toothpaste, no matter how yummy it tastes.

From 7 to 12 years of age. Have your child start brushing on her own, with supervision as needed. You may need to take over from time to time. By the time she’s 12, she should brush and floss independently.

Teens. Encourage your teen to continue healthy dental habits. Many teens experience their first cavities because they slack off on brushing and flossing. The habits they practice in their teen years will carry them into their 20s. Don’t give up on your teen’s oral health. Their healthy, happy smile will thank you one day.

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