Opinions vary on the recommended age for a first dental check-up. Within my own practice, I recommend parents bring their child along for their first visit before the age of three. Before this, I also encourage parents to bring their child along when having their own routine check-ups or with their older siblings. This helps to normalise the experience, so the child knows what to expect and lets me have a quick look to screen for any problems.
It is very important to see the child’s teeth before the adult teeth start to erupt around 6. If there is decay in the baby teeth before this age we need to consider any changes that should be made to reduce sugar in the diet. It is also worth planning to fissure seal the adult first molar teeth, to protect them, if this is the case.
A first dental visit should fun. Tell the child that they will get a ride in the magic chair and that they will have their teeth counted. Bringing a favourite soft toy along can be very helpful. I often examine a teddy or dolls mouth first before I look at the child’s. Seeing what will happen beforehand can help the child prepare them for what is involved. Sitting on a parent’s knee can also help relax a nervous child.
It is important to be as positive as you can in advance of the visit. There are several books about visiting the dentist that can also be helpful. We have copies of ‘Topsy and Tim Go to the Dentist’ in the waiting room. The first visit to the dentist episode of Peppa pig is also mentioned on a regular basis. Giving young children an idea of what’s to come helps to reduce any anxiety that they may have. We give young children stickers at the end of the appointment to reinforce that the appointment has been a positive experience.
I am happy to see most children once a year for a check-up unless there is a specific problem or issue which I would like to review sooner.