How Often Should My Child See a Dentist?

It can be difficult to know how much dental care a child needs. Parents usually have many questions, such as when their child should first visit the dentist, at what age flossing should begin, and how often dental checkups should occur.

Taking care of your child’s teeth begins before the first dentist visit; in fact, it begins before your child ever has any visible teeth. Your baby is born with 20 primary teeth waiting under the gums, to begin emerging at around six months. Before teeth erupt, clean the gums with a damp washcloth to wash away harmful bacteria. Once teeth begin emerging, brush them with plain water and a soft baby toothbrush.

Your child’s first visit to the dentist should take place by his or her first birthday. During this first visit, the focus will mainly be about introducing the child to the dentist’s chair and teaching parents how to care for baby’s teeth. Often you won’t need to return for another year, when the child is two years old. After that, your child should visit the dentist every six months, just like adults. Dentists often take children’s first x-rays between the ages of four and six.

Between ages six and 12, while baby teeth are still present, dental care focuses on prevention. Your child’s dentist will probably want to apply a sealant, a plastic resin that bonds to chewing surfaces and protects the teeth from cavities, between ages seven and nine. Sealants are most commonly applied to molars, which contain grooves and valleys for cavity-causing bacteria to fester.

Around age seven your child will probably need an orthodontic evaluation. If required, braces will probably not be fitted until your child’s early teens, but identifying potential skeletal causes of crooked teeth now help determine what they will need for a healthy mouth and great-looking smile later.

By taking your child to the dentist from a young age and sticking to a regular schedule of checkups,you can prevent many problems, or catch them early and avoid unnecessary pain and expense. You might want to consider a pediatric dentist as these dentists specialize in children’s dental health. They are skilled at putting frightened children at ease and also knowledgeable about when to refer you to another specialist such as an orthodontist or oral surgeon.

The best way to ensure your child’s dental health is covering the basics: brushing twice a day, flossing at bedtime, and getting regular dental checkups. The dentist can teach your child proper brushing and flossing methods and let your child know if they are leaving plaque behind and how to correct their technique. This type of direction is often taken more seriously when it comes from the dentist than from a parent. So stick to the recommended dentist visit schedule and give your child the gift of excellent oral care and a lifetime of healthy smiles.