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At What Age Should Your Child Go to the Dentist for the First Time?

It has been said that although your baby may not be ready for a dental visit at one year of age, your baby’s teeth are ready.

However, even if you take your child to the dentist on their first birthday, you may be taking them later than is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association.

At What Age Should You Take Your Child to the Dentist for the First Time?

Age When Baby First Goes to DentistAt my dental school, we follow the guideline from the American Dental Association that a child should have his or her first dental visit within six months of getting their first tooth, or before they turn 1.  Whichever comes first. So if your little girl gets her first tooth at 4 months, it is recommended that she visit the dentist no later than six months later, which would be at 10 months.

I have included the official statements below from both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry on when a child should visit the dentist for the first time.

The American Dental Association on When a Child Should First Visit the Dentist

Here’s what the American Dental Association has to say on the topic of when a child should first visit the dentist:

The Association urges parents and guardians, as a child’s first tooth erupts, to consult with their dentist regarding:

1 – Scheduling the child’s first dental visit. It is advantageous for the first visit to occur within six months of eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age, and

2 – Receiving oral health education based on the child’s developmental needs (also known as anticipatory guidance).

The American Dental Association recommends that a child visit the dentist within six months of getting their first tooth, but definitely before their first birthday.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry on When a Child Should First Visit the Dentist

First Dental VisitThe American Academy of Pediatric dentistry recommends that a child should first see the dentist by their first birthday.  Here’s what they say on their website:

“First visit by first birthday’ sums it up. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between 6 and 12 months of age. This visit will establish a dental home for your child. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child’s smile now and in the future.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s policy is similar to the American Dental Association’s statement.  The AAPD ‘s policy says to go by the first birthday or when the first tooth comes in.  Pretty much any time between 6 and 12 months is a good time for your child to visit the dentist for the first time.

What Will the Dentist Do at the First Dental Visit?

The dentist will simply examine your child and give you advice on how to better take care of your child’s oral health at the first dental visit.  Of course, the exam does depend on how comfortable and cooperative your child is.

One of the best methods of examining children is to have the parent and dentist sitting down facing one another.  The parent then holds the child’s body in his or her lap and the dentist holds the child’s head in his or her lap.  This is known as “knee-to-knee dentistry” and has proven to be a good method to put children at ease while allowing the dentist to check for early cavities and oral developmental problems.

What Should You Do If Your Dentist Won’t See Your Child This Early?

As you can imagine, some dentists are comfortable with toddlers and some dentists aren’t.  When I eventually graduate and become a dentist, I plan to treat patients of all ages and will refer extremely complicated patients to pediatric dentists, who are trained in the behavioral management of young children.

I found a really interesting letter written by Milton Houpt, the chair of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the New Jersey Dental School.  It was a letter to the editor in the dental journal Pediatric Dentistry.

In it he talked about how his granddaughter recently turned one and needed to find a pediatric dentist.  Rather than seeing her himself, he decided to find a younger pediatric dentist so that his granddaughter could develop a good relationship with her dentist.  Upon calling the office, he was rather disappointed.  Here’s how he relates what happened:

What I thought would be a routine call became, to my dismay, a great disappointment.  This is what I was told: “We don’t see children until they are at least two and a half or three years of age.  The parents in my practice are upscale.  They would not let me examine their children if they were crying.  And if I wouldn’t examine the child, how could I charge a fee?  I couldn’t charge just for giving advice.  And I am not going to see infants free of charge.

As this case demonstrates, not all dentists are willing to see children before their first birthday.  They may not be comfortable seeing and charging for a dental visit for young children (as in the above case) or they simply may be stuck in the way they’ve always done things, which is to wait until the child is between the ages of 3 and 6 to first see them.

I believe the case above is an exception to the rule.  From what I have read on the internet in various forums, it does seem that there are some dentists who are not willing to see a child until they turn 2 or 3 years old.  If this is the case, it might be a good idea to find a pediatric dentist in your area that specializes in oral health care for children.

Conclusion – Should a Baby Really Go to the Dentist Before They Turn One?

All of the major organizations in the United States that have a vested interest in the oral health of children (the ADA, AAPD, and the AAP) recommend that a child go to the dentist before age one.  This wasn’t always the case — up until around 10 years ago, I believe that the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommended age 3, but they have since changed their policy to more closely mirror that of the two dental associations.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering if YOU should really take your baby to the dentist.  From what I have observed, most 12 month-old kids that come to my dental school are the ones whose parents are taking good care of their teeth.

Even if you take great care of your child’s teeth, it is still a good idea to take them to the dentist because it helps them get acclimated to being in a dental office and can help you discover any previously unknown oral risks (such as having pits on some teeth that could make them more susceptible to getting cavities) that your child faces.  Also, you will probably learn something new about how to take care of your child’s teeth and can find out if you’re causing your child to develop tooth decay.

Not sure why you should take care of your baby’s teeth since they fall out?  Find out why baby teeth are important!

Most parents take their child to the pediatrician a total of seven times during their first year of life (at 5 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months of age.)  These visits are routine checkups where a professional makes sure your child is developing properly and answers your questions.  A visit to the dentist before they turn 1 will be similar to these routine medical checkups, only the focus will be on your child’s teeth and gums.  And just think, you only need to take your child to the dentist one time before they turn 1 to ensure they are growing a happy, healthy smile!

Do you have any questions about your child’s first dental visit or how to find the right dentist for your child’s first dental visit?

Leave any questions or comments below in the comments section and I’ll get right back to you.  Thanks for reading!




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