What age to start taking your child to the dentist?

Published On: Feb 17 2013 07:59:24 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 18 2013 05:40:00 AM EST

According to the American Dental Association, 75 percent of people have a fear of the dentist, and 10 percent of those fears turn into phobias. Take your child to the dentist early to ease any fears and teach them good dental habits.

A pediatric dentist is the best bet for your child's first few dental visit experiences.  A pediatric dentist has the training and experience in working with kids. You'll want a dentist who is sensitive to your child's needs and can make the appointment as positive an experience as possible.

“When choosing a dentist for your children you want to do your research check their credentials, talk to  family and friends, check reviews and what other patients have said about them. Also, visit them take your child with you make sure your child is going to feel comfortable when they do actually have their cleaning, suggested Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Remember to schedule your child for an oral health screening by her first birthday.

Why are baby teeth important?

Healthy baby teeth:

Dental decay in baby teeth affects your child's overall health.

Protect Your Baby From Germs That Cause Tooth Decay

Don’t put food, pacifiers, utensils in your mouth and then in your baby’s mouth. Many parents “clean” pacifiers by putting them in their mouths and then giving them back to their babies, but cavity-causing germs are easily passed to infants and toddlers this way. Germs can also be shared when parents test food or share utensils with their child.

No matter how careful you are, your baby will get some of your germs, so keeping the germs down by taking care of YOUR oral health is important.

Getting Started With Cleaning

Before teeth begin to come in, gently clean your baby’s gums with a clean soft cloth after each feeding. This will help your baby get used to having their gums (and later teeth) cleaned.

As soon as your baby’s teeth start to come in, begin to clean their teeth and gums with a small soft toothbrush and a smear of fluoridated toothpaste—about as big as a grain of rice.

Tips To Make Cleaning Easier

Make brushing a positive experience. Sing songs or recite catchy rhymes with your child. You can even use a timer to let your child know when he or she is done brushing. Remember to use dental terms, like "toothbrush" and "toothpaste," to get your child used to hearing the words. Don't forget to model your own good brushing habits. Show your child that you practice the same healthy dental habits that you are encouraging your child to develop.

Choose your words carefully.   You may lapse into describing a dental visit as an unpleasant obligation, but the words you use to explain the experience can either create or dispel anxiety for your child. Avoid using words like ‘drill,’ ‘hurt’ or ‘needle.’  Keep the conversation positive and focused on the benefits of good dental health.  A pediatric dentist might tell your child he is going to shine his smile, count her teeth, or tickle her gums. 

Peer examples:  Some pediatric dental offices encourage kids to see other children under the dentist’s care.  Older siblings who are receiving checkups can model positive behavior and set a good example at the office and at home.


The National Maternal and Child Oral Health resource center says:

9 Good Dental Health Practices:

  1. Eat nutritious food instead of those high in sugar
  2. Have drinking water readily available throughout the day
  3. Any juice provided is limited to 4-6 ounces and served only in a cup
  4. Brush after each meal or rinse with water if brushing isn’t possible
  5. Caregivers should always hold infants when feeding from a bottle—no propping of bottles or sippy cups
  6. As soon as babies can sit without support, switch from drinking from a bottle to a cup
  7. Start brushing teeth as soon as first tooth erupts
  8. To prevent cross contamination, store toothbrushes separately and keep separate toothpaste tubes for each child, or dispense from one large tube onto clean piece of paper to swipe on toothbrush
  9. Parents’ dental health affects a child’s in multiple ways.  Displaying good dental habits in front of children, along with not sharing food or drink will help keep children’s teeth healthy