When Should My Child First Visit the Dentist?
As early as 1 year. Your child's first birthday is an excellent time to seek a well-baby dental evaluation to diagnose and prevent any future oral disorders. This age is also a good time to discuss weaning your child from the bottle, and reviewing home care and other preventive recommendations.
What Will Happen at the First Visit?
The dentist will examine your child's mouth. The examination will include the teeth, gums, tongue, lips, and roof of the mouth. Depending upon the child's age, number of teeth present, and ability to cooperate, the dentist may order a few cavity-detecting X rays, if decay is suspected. X rays are also helpful in determining that the permanent teeth are developing normally. Your child may also have his or her teeth cleaned.
How Can I Prepare My Child?
Make the first visit something for the child to look forward to. Morning appointments are usually when the child is most rested and cooperative. Do not attempt to bribe your child. Today, dentistry for children is a fun and positively anticipated experience. You might read your child a story about a trip to the dentist. Or, you can play "dentist" with the child by taking turns looking into each other's mouths with a flashlight.
If your child asks a question you feel uncomfortable answering, you may respond, "I don't know. Let's ask the dentist." This keeps you from unnecessarily scaring the child; it also allows your child to have an active role in their dental care.
What Are Sealants?
Sealants are a clear, acrylic-like material that helps shield out decay-causing bacteria from the chewing surfaces of the backteeth. It may be recommended that sealants be applied to a child's primary (baby) molars by the age of 3 or 4 years. Once the 6-year molars (the first permanent back teeth) appear, it is best to apply sealants as soon as possible. As a child's most cavity-prone years continue until the mid-teens, the 12-year molars (second molars) and premolars should also be sealed as they appear.
How Can Sealants Prevent Decay?
Sealant material can bond to the chewing surface of the back teeth to form a protective barrier covering the pits and fissures (depressions and grooves) of the chewing surfaces. Sealants are an intermediate preventative step in delaying or preventing tooth decay on these areas of back teeth.