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When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist?

The best time for that first visit may be earlier than you think, our expert says.
By Eric Yabu, DDS
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Q. How old should my child be before I make his first dental appointment?

A. You should take him in by the time he celebrates his first birthday.

Recommended Related to Oral Health

8 Ways to Keep Your Mouth Healthy

Brushing, flossing, and rinsing are the ABCs of oral health, but they're only the beginning. A marvelous mouth takes more than squeezing paste out of a tube -- think improving your toothbrushing technique, ditching the daily soda habit, and saying good-bye to cigarettes. David Leader, DMD, an assistant clinical professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, outlines eight oral care musts for a healthy mouth. Pay a visit. If you're prone to ditching the dentist, you're...

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First visits are mostly about getting kids used to the dentist's chair and educating parents about how to care for baby's teeth. If your child has transitioned from the bottle to cup and doesn't snack or drink in the middle of the night, you get a one-year pass, until age 2. That's when the standard every-six-month dental visit recommendation kicks into gear. When your child is between ages 4 and 6, expect your dentist to take a first set of X-rays to check for cavities lurking between the teeth.

Prevention is the name of the game between ages 6 and 12, when baby teeth give way to permanent teeth. Your child's dentist will probably suggest a sealant, a plastic resin that bonds to teeth's chewing surfaces, between ages 7 and 9. Cavity-prone molars are the most likely site for treatment. The resin keeps cavity-causing bacteria from getting into the grooves and valleys of teeth.

Also, when your child is around age 7, his dentist will likely suggest an orthodontic evaluation. Most kids will wait until their early teens for braces, but orthodontics is about modifying jaw growth, so identifying skeletal causes of crooked teeth early helps ensure a beautiful smile later on.

In the end, it's the basics -- brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and getting regular dental checkups -- that have the most impact on a kid's smile.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD the Magazine.

Reviewed on April 02, 2012

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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