What you need to know for a kid’s first visit to the dentist
Post by Dr Tiffany Kenton, dentist
Children’s dentistry is something I have a particular interest in here at Greenwood Dental. Many parents have a lot of questions around issues like the best time to bring their kids in for their first visit, and how treating their children’s teeth is different to what they experience as adults.
On a personal level, I just really like treating kids. I have two kids of my own—Taj and Kai— and I understand that it takes a lot of patience and care to treat little ones. Sometimes children’s dentistry can be quite challenging with behavioural issues being a factor as well.
That’s not unusual: those behavioural issues are generally a function of age. It’s very difficult for children to understand why they’re seeing the dentist, and it’s impossible to explain it to them at that age anyway.
That’s why, as a general rule, I don’t see kids under the age of one unless their parents believe there are particular issues that need looking at. Normally, I’d recommend their first dental visit be between the ages of two to three, where they’re a bit more cooperative.
There are two main reasons for that. The first is, at that age the child would actually sit, even if it’s in their parent’s lap, for the examination. The second, and related, reason is that we want them to understand what’s happening to a degree so their first visit isn’t unpleasant or stressful for them. We don’t want to have to hold a frightened child down, and realistically, before that age, it’s unlikely they would even want to sit in the chair. There’s nothing worse than making the first visit an unpleasant experience. In my experience, when they’re between two and three, when they’re a bit more cooperative.
There is a lot of different information out there on the internet which can make the issue of deciding when to bring the young ones in for their first visit. Some organisations suggest you do it as soon as baby’s first teeth arrive. Some suggest even sooner. Can I suggest the best source of information is your family dentist, and he or she will be more than happy to talk to you about when is best.
I still maintain, however, that the best age is around two, and that’s mainly to ensure that the experience is pleasant for your child. We want a visit to the dentist to be free of anxiety. If a parent rang me up and expressed some concern with their child’s oral health and the child was under the age of two, I’d normally get the parents themselves to actually have a look in the child’s mouth as well, just to make sure there are no issues. In my next post I’ll talk about how you can recognise if your child has a dental problem. If there are any issues, then we’re certainly happy to see them before then, but you shouldn’t concern yourself with such questions without a reason.