Importance of dental checkups for children

At what age should a child first visit the dentist?

The first dental visit is recommended by 12 months of age, or within six months of the first tooth coming in. The visit usually lasts 30 minutes.

At this appointment, the dentist can give you information on:

  • Baby bottle tooth decay
  • Infant feeding practices and mouth cleaning
  • Teething
  • Pacifier and finger-sucking habits

Depending on your child's age, the visit may include a full exam of the teeth, bite, gums and oral tissues to check growth and development.  Your child may also have a cleaning which includes polishing teeth and removing any tartar and stains. The dentist may advise you on the need for fluoride and may recommend x-rays to diagnose decay, infections or to check the presence of all adult teeth.

What are the benefits of an early dental visit?

As with other areas of childhood development, an early dental visit can make all the difference to their future dental health. The sooner you begin regular dental visits with your child, the better their chances for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. An early dental visit can lead to many benefits such as:

1.     Becoming familiar with the dentist and receiving professional dental care.

2.     Early monitoring for dental disease, decay and control of teeth alignment and bite problems.  In addition to treating decay, your child may also need preventative actions like sealants or additional fluoride applications to protect teeth if they are at a higher risk for disease.

3.     Parental help and support. The dentist can provide essential information on how to care for your child’s teeth and gums at home. As well as ease any concerns you may have about thumb sucking or other oral habits and techniques for dealing with these problems.

How often should a child have a dental checkup?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry children are recommended to have regular dental checkups every six months. However, depending on your child's risk factors for oral health problems the dentist may recommend fewer or more-frequent visits. The reason for the biannual visits are:

  • Minor issues don’t become serious oral health problems and so teeth are protected from caries and gums remain healthy.
  • Teeth are aligned properly in the future.
  • Children are familiar with their dentist and have formed trusted bonds.

Why do children need to see the dentist more than adults?

There are many reasons why children need to see the dentist more frequently than adults such as,

1.     To establish proper brushing habits.

2.     Baby teeth have a thinner layer of enamel than adult teeth. This means that cavities can spread quicker in baby teeth and require closer monitoring.

3.     Problems with baby teeth can cause problems for the replacing adult teeth that will replace them.

4.     Oral health can affect nutrition which in turn has an effect on their physical and cognitive development as they grow.

5.     A child’s confidence is very important for their overall wellbeing. A child may experience emotional upset due to tooth loss, decay, or discolouration in case of an injury.

What can parents do to make the child less intimidated by dental visits?

The below tips can help prepare your child so they can actually enjoy their visits to the dentist.

1.     Prepare your child and tell them what to expect

Fear stems from the unknown. The more information your child has, the more empowered they can feel.

2.     Be honest and understanding

If your child has any fear about visiting the dentist, ask them what they are and try to listen and understand how they may be feeling. Answer their questions, and offer positive experiences of dentals visits you have had.

3.     Being physically present during your child’s appointment

For a lot of children separation from parent can cause anxiety and/or fear so being present during your child’s appointment is essential.