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Tooth decay is a huge problem, even for young children.

In fact, more than 42 percent of kids between the ages of 2 and 11 have some form of tooth decay in their baby teeth.

Though the cause of that decay varies from child to child, one common factor is a lack of regular dental cleanings and appointments.

For parents, it’s normal to wonder, “What age should a child go to the dentist for the first time?”

Luckily, it’s a relatively simple question to answer.

Here’s what you need to know.

As Soon as They Get Their First Tooth

A good rule of thumb is to schedule an appointment for your child as soon as you see their first baby tooth start to break through the gum line.

This gives the dentist a chance to get your child ready for lifelong good oral hygiene habits early on. But it also allows them to monitor your child’s tooth growth and development.

When they can identify problems at a young age, they can help you develop a treatment plan to help keep your child’s teeth in good condition.

What Age Should a Child Go to the Dentist? No Later Than Age Two

The latest you should schedule your child’s first dental appointment is age two.

By this point, they should already have at least a few teeth.

These teeth still need to last for several years and need regular care to prevent cavities and tooth decay.

If you put off appointments any longer, you risk missing the beginnings of cavities and gum disease. Once these start, it can cause serious health issues.

Further, the sooner you can start getting your child used to regular cleanings and dental care, the better off they’ll be. When kids get used to the dentist at a young age and discover that there’s nothing to feel scared of, they won’t mind going as they get older.

Find a Dentist That Specializes in Pediatric Care

Believe it or not, not all dentists work with children and those that do may not specialize in pediatric care.

This can make your child’s experience less pleasant.

Take the time to find a dentist that specializes in working with kids. They understand how to make the appointment fun and can help reduce stress for children who otherwise might be anxious.

Even better, they’re more familiar with growing mouths and can help you and your child during those formative years.

How You Can Help Them Get Ready

Once you make your first appointment with a pediatric dentist, you’ll want to get your child ready for the appointment.

If they’re old enough, you can explain what to expect. But you can also take a more active approach towards getting them ready for their first dentist visit.

Take Your Child to Your Cleanings

Regular cleanings help keep your child’s teeth in good shape, but they’re also key in helping you keep your teeth looking great.

When you schedule your cleanings, see if you can take your child with you. This will give them a chance to watch the procedure, hear the noises, and see that you’re comfortable with the process.

Kids often learn by example and when they see you being calm, they’ll be more likely to respond the same way during their appointments.

Get Them Used to Toothbrushes

Kids don’t need to have a mouth full of teeth to start brushing.

In fact, the earlier you can get them used to the idea, the better.

Head to the store and pick up a few toddler-sized toothbrushes with extra-soft bristles. These will be soft enough to stimulate their gums without hurting them.

Dedicate one for gentle brushing with your help. Try to do this once a day to get them used to the concept. Let them chew on another with adult supervision.

Even the small amount of brushing can help keep their current baby teeth healthy and the bristles on their gums will increase blood flow and helps keep their mouths healthier while they’re teething.

What to Do at the Appointment

When the big day comes, it’s normal for both you and your child to feel a little nervous.

Instead of panicking or letting your worry show, do what you can to be a calming influence for your child.

Be Patient at the Office

It’s normal for kids to act out during their first visit.

Instead of reacting, be as patient as you can.

The staff will do everything they can to keep your child calm and happy during the appointment. But if your child sees you getting flustered, their mood will shift. When you’re calm, your child will be more likely to follow your lead.

This can make even somewhat stressful appointments easier. And when the first appointment goes well, they’ll be more receptive to future appointments. That means fewer tears and far more laughs.

Notify the Dentist of Behavioral Issues Ahead of Time

Behavioral issues impact about 7.4 percent of kids between 3 and 17 years of age.

If your child is one of them, it’s nothing to feel ashamed about. But you should tell your dentist about those issues before the first appointment. This helps them better prepare for the appointment and gives them a chance to tailor their efforts to better suit your child.

Their primary goal is to help your child have a beautiful smile, but they want to do that with as little stress as possible.

The better they understand the issues your child faces, whether it’s something like ADHD or anxiety, the better they’ll be able to help your child.

Say Cheese!

As a parent, it’s normal to ask, “What age should a child go to the dentist for the first time?”

After all, every child is different and your child’s teeth may take longer to come in.

As a general rule, you should bring your child to their first dentist appointment before they’re two years old. This way, their dentist can help them establish good oral hygiene habits and get used to being in the chair from a young age.

Ready to schedule an appointment for your child?

Contact us today and let our team get your child’s dental health started off on the right foot.