A Child's First Dental Visit
Multiple national health care organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, recommend that all children have their first dental visit within 6 months of the first tooth eruption or by the age of 1.
Providers should encourage parents to establish a dental home for their children. Routine dental visits allow for the opportunity to devote an entire appointment to educating parents on their children’s oral health. Parents can be counseled and guided every 6 months on various topics such as:
- Diet and how it effects risk of decay
- How to prevent oral injury
- Tips on how to prevent cavities
- Parafunctional habits
- What to expect during growth and development
- How to properly care for their children’s teeth through different stages
The first dental visit is usually short. The dentist or hygienist will do a visual assessment to check for cavities, mouth injuries, or other issues. A preventative cleaning or fluoride application may occur, but it may be deferred if the child’s behavior doesn’t allow for treatment. Regular short visits to the dentist will help the child and parent get used to the new environment and build comfort with the dentist. The remaining time during the appointment is devoted to parent education.
Building the dental referral into regular well-child visits will help minimize the risk of dental decay. Dentist and primary care providers can both contribute to positive health outcomes by reinforcing regular dental visits once teeth erupt or by the age of 1.