Those precious baby teeth—such a milestone in your baby’s development. So just when should your toddler be introduced to his dentist. Age 3? Kindergarten? Actually a toddler should see a dentist around his first birthday or six months after that first little tooth emerges. Seriously? Absolutely! Most parents do not understand just how important those baby teeth are.
According to the AAPD, it is very important to keep primary (or “baby”) teeth in place until they are lost naturally. The primary teeth are important for many reasons including:
- Helping children chew properly to maintain good nutrition.
- Involvement in speech development
- Helping save space for permanent teeth.
- Promoting a healthy smile that helps children feel good about the way they look.
- As children grow, they need to learn proper techniques for brushing and flossing, that will ensure lifelong oral health. The first dentist visit is a great opportunity for parents to learn how best to care for their children’s teeth.
If you begin taking your children to the dentist around the time the first tooth erupts, then they are probably too young to be nervous. But if you’ve waited until your child is older (for example, 2 years), then he or she may have some anxiety at the time of the first visit. Even worse, many children aren’t taken to the dentist until pain is involved. Under these circumstances, a child could even form a lifelong fear of the dentist.
What’s the best way to prepare your child for the whirring machinery, sharp instruments and a stranger telling him or her to “open wide”?
- Give your child a sneak preview. Take your child with you for your next checkup to see you having your teeth examined and cleaned.
- Learn more about it. Lots of books and online resources are geared toward teaching children more about dental health and dentist visits.
- Play around. Take turns being the dentist and the patient with your child. Examine each other’s teeth with a mirror or use your fingers to count each other’s teeth so that your child will be familiar with the feel of a dentist examination.
- Timing is everything. Plan plenty of time so that the dental visit isn’t rushed, and make sure your child is well-rested before the visit so that he or she feels relaxed and comfortable
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