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At What Age Should a Child First See a Pediatric Dentist?
It is recommended that children should first see a pediatric dentist at the age of 1 or six months after the first tooth appears. Some parents think it is not important to bring a child to see a dentist until an older age and all the teeth are in, but this can be too late because decay may have already begun developing. Starting a child young can help with prevention, and it also builds the child’s comfort level.
Why kids should visit a pediatric dentist
There are numerous benefits for children who visit a pediatric dentist early on.
Encourage good oral health practices
It is true that baby teeth eventually fall out and are replaced with permanent teeth, but until that happens it is important to keep the primary teeth clean and healthy. Teaching kids proper habits and practices when it comes to dental health is important, and the dentist can help show the kids how to properly brush teeth.
For children aged 2 to 4, it may be harder to get them to brush every morning and night. At this age, children may be more likely to listen to a dental professional as opposed to their own parents. This helps builds compliance and excitement at home.
The National Institute of Health reports that around 42% of children aged 2 to 11 have cavities and that 28% of those aged 2 to 5 have them. This number is even higher in low-income families and for black and Hispanic children.
Baby teeth are also more susceptible to cavities because they are softer, which makes them more vulnerable to bacteria. If bacteria cause a cavity, then the surrounding teeth are also more susceptible. The good news is cavities are preventable, and a dental exam can identify any potential problem areas.
Decrease dental anxiety
Going to the dentist is a fear for many people. However, if children start young, there is a better chance of building up a confidence level in regard to the dentist. Most pediatric dentist offices are fun, and the hygienist often gives out positive rewards such as stickers or toys, so children enjoy going. This builds comfort for later in life.
What to expect during a visit
Some pediatric dentists will schedule an initial appointment in which no exam or dental work is performed. The purpose of this short visit is to introduce the child to the office, hygienist and dentist and to show the different equipment and demonstrate how it is used.
In subsequent visits, the hygienist will clean with a gentle polisher and show how to properly brush, and then the dentist will perform an exam. Once the child is older, X-rays will be taken during some of the visits. Any potential problem will be discussed with the parents.
It is important that a child visit a pediatric dentist early on before problems start to develop. For most children, this should be around the one-year mark, and the first visit should definitely take place before the child turns 2 in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems.
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