If you’re a parent wondering when should kids go to the dentist, there’s no one right answer, but it’s something all parents will inevitably have to deal with at some point. Going to the dentist is a daunting concept for kids. For parents, it’s often worse because you want to protect your child from any fear or uncertainty but also want to keep them safe and healthy.
But when should kids see a dentist? Do you really need to go every six months as most dentists say? The real answer depends on the developmental stage of your child, and variables like tooth emergencies may increase the frequency you visit your dentist’s office. Read on to see how to consider dental visits at every stage.
When is the right time for your infant’s first visit to the dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you bring your child to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears. The AAPD also recommends that your child receive their first dental visit before their second birthday. This ensures that your child will have a primary care provider who knows them and can provide regular care for them throughout childhood.
What should you expect at your child’s first dental visit?
A lot of parents worry about their child’s first dental visit, but it’s important to remember that this appointment isn’t about treatment. It’s all about prevention and education.
For the first visit, the dentist will examine your child’s mouth, teeth, face, and gums for any abnormal tooth development patterns. They may also take X-rays to see how the teeth are growing in order to determine any issues that need further attention.
Once they’re done with the exam, they’ll spend time talking with you about how to keep your infant’s teeth healthy and strong. They’ll also talk about what signs to watch out for so that you can bring them back in if there is a problem developing or if something seems off with their teeth.
How to make your child’s trip to the dentist more pleasant:
Make it a positive experience.
- Let your child know that going to the dentist is something you want them to enjoy. Take time to prepare your child for their first visit by talking about it ahead of time and answering any questions they may have. Read picture books about going to the dentist to give your child a visualization.
- Tell them what they’ll see at the office, such as instruments used during treatment. If possible, bring along an old toothbrush or toothpaste tube so they can see what kinds of things dentists use on teeth.
- Make sure that they’re comfortable with being in the dentist’s chair and having their mouth looked at closely by an expert. Getting familiar with these things early on makes visits easier as they grow up. This also helps your kids make the decision on their own that going to the dentist is something to look forward to.
Arrange an appointment.
- Don’t set up an appointment for when your child isn’t feeling well or has other obligations that day so he or she doesn’t feel rushed or pressured into going by parents’ expectations alone. This way, even if they don’t want to go at first, knowing that it won’t interfere with anything else helps make it more appealing later on.
- You might also want to avoid scheduling appointments during meal times so your child isn’t distracted from eating properly due to fear or anxiety about visiting the dentist.
Brief them on what to expect.
- Explain why they need to go to the dentist and why it’s important. Let them know that it will take just a few minutes and then they can leave afterward. Letting them know how long their appointment will last will help ease any anxiety they may have.
How often should my kids visit the dentist?
Many parents wonder when kids should go to the dentist. The earlier you start taking your child to see the dentist, the better. Early visits are important because they help establish a foundation for good oral health habits. Children who visit their dentist regularly are more likely to maintain good oral health throughout their lives. Plus, it’s easier for a child’s first dental visit if he or she is familiar with the office environment and staff before any work needs to be done.
Once every six months should be sufficient for most children—unless there are any problems that need additional attention sooner—but this can vary depending on how old your child is and how quickly he or she grows teeth. If you’re unsure about how often your child should go in for checkups, ask your dentist or pediatrician what they recommend based on your child’s age and development.
Common Teeth Issues During Elementary and Middle School Years
It’s no secret that kids can be a little rough on their teeth. When your child starts elementary school or middle school, it’s no longer enough to just brush and floss. The mouth is changing, and so are the needs of the teeth. So what tooth emergencies should you look out for?
Tooth decay or cavities
It’s never too early to start teaching your child about oral hygiene, but as soon as your child starts eating solid foods and drinking from a cup, he or she will need more frequent visits to the dentist. When tooth decay starts, it can spread quickly if left untreated. By visiting the dentist twice per year, it is easier to catch cavities before they become major problems.
Redness around the gums
This is usually accompanied by tenderness in the cheek and can be an indication that something in the mouth is causing irritation or inflammation—for example, if food got stuck between two teeth and started to cause bleeding.
Trauma to the mouth or jaw
A fall while playing sports can result in a broken tooth or jaw fracture. A kid playing with his friends can get punched in the face or hit by an elbow that causes an accidental dental injury. Kids who participate in contact sports may suffer from tooth pain caused by direct impact with another player’s mouthpiece or helmet. Kids who play hard on playground equipment may chip or break their teeth when they fall off of swings, slides, or monkey bars onto concrete surfaces below them.
Teeth trauma isn’t always obvious at first glance; sometimes there is no external evidence of injury until days later when pain begins to occur and a visit to the dentist is imperative by then.
Tongue thrusting/thumb sucking
This habit causes the tongue to push forward against the front teeth during speaking or eating, which results in abnormal wear of the front teeth leading to discoloration, erosion, and early loss of permanent teeth. Some children may suck their thumb or finger even after the age of 4 years old as a way of self-soothing or relieving tension; this should be discouraged as it can cause crookedness of the teeth, speech problems and difficulty developing proper speech sounds called “dental malocclusion.” If you have concerns about breaking this habit, it’s time to see your dentist.
Tightly spaced teeth
If your child’s teeth are crowded together because they’re growing crooked or if one of her permanent molars hasn’t come in yet, she may have trouble chewing certain foods such as popcorn kernels or nuts without pain. Your dentist can help straighten crowded teeth with braces or other orthodontic treatments.
It’s important that you take note of any symptoms your child may have and seek advice from a dentist as soon as possible so that they can assess what treatment options are available and determine what course of action is best suited for them.
When should you think about aligners or braces?
If you have a child entering the elementary school years, it’s a good idea to think about the possibility of braces or aligners. When your child is ready for braces, it’s usually around the time they get their permanent teeth. This can be anywhere from age 7 to 11 years old. Why? Because this is when braces are most effective. In fact, if you wait until later in life, your child may need more extensive treatment such as orthodontic surgery.
So how can you tell if your child might need braces? Here are some key signs:
- The upper front teeth don’t touch when biting down on food. This may be due to a high tongue position or an overbite; both can be corrected with orthodontic treatment.
- The jaw is far back and short compared to the rest of their body (a condition known as malocclusion). This can cause problems chewing and speaking clearly as well as affecting their self-esteem because their teeth appear crooked when they smile or talk.
- Both top and bottom front teeth overlap or cross over each other when biting together—this condition is called crowding and can lead to gum disease if left untreated.
Common Teeth Problems for High School Teens
Your teen should also visit their dentist at least once every 6 months for routine dental exams and cleanings. Regular checkups are important because they allow the dentist to catch any issues before they become major problems. If you notice any of the following signs at home, it’s time to make an appointment:
Teens are more likely to develop gum disease than adults because their gums are more susceptible to infection due to hormonal changes and less likely to have regular checkups. This can lead to periodontal disease, which is an infection that affects the tissues around your teeth. It can cause a loss of jawbone and tooth deterioration if left untreated.
Teenagers have a high risk of developing cavities since they tend to eat too much sugar-laden food and beverages like soda, candy, and cookies. Cavities are more likely to develop when there’s poor oral hygiene, poor diet, or smoking habits, which puts teens at risk for developing oral health problems that could lead to tooth loss later in life.
It is a common dental issue among teens that can be caused by poor oral hygiene, gum disease, and cavities. When you go to the dentist for a visit, they will recommend a thorough cleaning and checkup of your teeth.
If your child’s teeth are discolored or yellow, it may be time to bring them in for an examination. If there is no obvious reason for the discoloration—such as soda, coffee, or exposure to tobacco smoke—then it is likely due to plaque build-up on tooth surfaces.
How to schedule dental appointments around busy school and activity schedules
Scheduling dental appointments around busy school and activity schedules can be a challenge. But if you can get your child to the dentist on a regular basis, you’ll be able to catch problems early and avoid costly dental work down the road.
Here are some tips for making sure your kids get the dental care they need:
- Schedule appointments during school breaks. If your kids are in school year-round, there are certain times when their schedules are more open—like summer vacation or winter break—and other times when they’re busier (think end-of-year testing). Take advantage of these times by scheduling your child’s next appointment during one of those breaks so that you know he’ll be able to keep it.
- If possible, schedule appointments on weekends instead of weekdays. Busy days at school tend to be Mondays through Thursdays, especially when there’s an evening program involved (hello band practice!). That means Friday afternoons and weekends tend to be much quieter times for most families’ lives—perfect for a visit to the dentist!
Taking care of your teeth from an early age is important for your overall health.
There is no set number of visits that children need. They may need more or less frequent visits depending on their age and how well they maintain their teeth and gums at home. The best way to determine how often your child needs to go is by scheduling a dental check-up every 6 months.
Remember that it’s never too early or too late to build a good dental habit. In fact, it’s important for overall dental health to develop good oral hygiene practices at an early age. Having healthy teeth helps prevent cavities and gum disease, as well as bad breath and other problems that can affect your children’s smiles.