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When Is It Time for Your Kid’s First Dental Checkup?

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A child smiling with her female dentist, giving a thumbs up while in the dental chair

Some parents only consider taking their kids to the dentist once they have a toothache or cavity. However, it’s important to start regular dental checkups early.

You may be surprised to know that the Canadian Dental Association recommends children visit a dentist by their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth. These early visits can set the stage for a lifetime of good oral health by helping your little ones get comfortable with seeing their dentist and reducing their risk of needing restorative dental treatments.

The Importance of Early Dental Checkups

Even though baby teeth are temporary, you should still take good care of them! Waiting until your child has a fully grown set of teeth can be too late, as many oral health problems can be prevented or treated early on. Even your child’s first tooth can be at risk of early childhood tooth decay.

Children may keep some of their baby teeth until age 12, so just because they’re temporary doesn’t mean they’re not a large part of your kid’s life. Tooth decay can be painful and lead to infection, affecting your child’s overall health too.

Also, if a baby tooth needs to be extracted, it leaves a gap. Other teeth could shift to fill this gap, blocking the path your child’s permanent teeth will need to take. Uncovering these issues early and treating them with orthodontic solutions like spacers can prevent them from worsening and requiring more extensive treatment later. 

On a more personal level, early dental visits can help children and parents become comfortable with the dental office and their dentist, which can reduce anxiety and fear around dental visits in the future.

The First Dental Exam

Your child’s first dental exam may be brief but informative. It’s an opportunity for your dentist to introduce themselves and familiarize your child with the dental tools. During this time, we can assess the health of your child’s first teeth and gums, looking for signs of early childhood tooth decay.

A dental exam is about more than just teeth. We can also check your child’s bite for signs of misalignment and their soft/hard palate for issues that may require treatment.

Overall, it’s also a chance to address questions or concerns you as a parent may have regarding your child’s oral health.

Making Oral Health Fun

Dental exams can be a time-consuming process, so children may be given a bit of playtime before or during their exam. This can help lower anxiety and make children more comfortable with their surroundings. 

During a cleaning, we may first use a brush and mirror to thoroughly clean your child’s teeth and remove plaque or tartar buildup. Once that initial cleaning is complete, we may polish and floss their teeth as well.

Children may also receive a fun goody bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss to help them get excited about taking care of their teeth.

Preparing Your Child for Their First Dental Checkup

New experiences can be exciting and intimidating all at the same time for kids. Try to use positive language when talking to your child about their dental appointment. Instead of saying, “It won’t hurt,” emphasize that a dentist can help them keep their teeth strong and healthy.

Hearing about other dental visits can be an excellent way to prepare your child for their first visit. Tell a positive story about your own time going to the dentist. Hearing that their parents also visit the dentist regularly can help reduce anxiety and prepare your child for their appointment.

How Often Should Kids See Their Dentist?

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that children see the dentist every 6 months. This is because a 6-month frequency helps us consistently monitor teeth and gums for potential issues, such as cavities, gum disease, and other oral health concerns.

Each child is unique, and they may need unique care. After your first visit, we can make personalized suggestions by considering factors such as genetics, diet, and hygiene habits, which can all play a role in a child’s dental health.

Bringing Oral Hygiene Home

You should start brushing your child’s teeth using a soft-bristled brush when their first tooth erupts. Your dentist may recommend using fluoride toothpaste if your child has a high risk of tooth decay. You should only use a portion about the size of a grain of rice.

Once children get older, usually between 3 and 6, they can start practicing brushing and flossing on their own. However, parents should supervise and assist until kids are able to do it effectively on their own. Kids can use about a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste at this age.

To help your child floss, start by taking a piece of floss roughly the length of your child’s arm. Wrap it securely around your middle fingers, leaving an approximately 2-inch gap between your hands. 

Slide the floss between their teeth, curving it into a “C” shape around the base of each tooth. Gently wipe each tooth from bottom to top at least 2 or 3 times. Make sure to floss both sides of each tooth, and remember those hard-to-reach back molars.

Limiting sugary snacks and drinks and encouraging your child to eat healthy snacks can also help prevent decay and support their long-term dental health.

A dentist checking a child's teeth using a dental mirror

Early Support for Oral Health

Don’t underestimate the importance of regular dental checkups for your child’s overall health. Starting early with dental visits can lead to a lifetime of good oral health while helping your child avoid painful and potentially expensive dental problems in the future.

Choosing a dentist with a focus on children’s dental care can be essential. At Bloom Orthodontics, we’re passionate about pediatric dentistry. With our practice designed to make children feel comfortable and relaxed, we’re ready to help you prioritize your child’s dental health.Book your child’s first dental checkup with us today!

Written by Bloom Dentistry

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