First visit to the dentist

So when should kids first visit the dentist? Sooner than you may think! Find out at what age you should take your kids to the dentist, choosing a dentist and things you can expect from their first visit.
So when should kids first visit the dentist? Sooner than you may think!

Find out at what age you should take your kids to the dentist, choosing a dentist and things you can expect from their first visit.

First visit to the dentist

Your kids milk teeth or baby teeth may not be permanent, but it’s essential that they are well looked after from the outset as they are extremely important for a number of reasons including:
  • learning to chew
  • healthy jaw growth
  • preparing gums and spaces for adult teeth to grow into

Looking after your kids milk teeth and taking them to the dentist at a young age is also the best way to prevent problems such as tooth decay later on.

Dental care in New Zealand

In New Zealand it is recommended that you enrol your kids at your local school/community dental clinic before their first birthday and any time up to the end of their Year 8 schooling.

However early enrolment provides the best opportunity to meet your kids oral health needs from a young age.

Ideally your kids first visit to the dentist should happen around their first birthday, or as a general rule, 6 months after their first tooth appears or sooner if their teeth are discoloured.

This may seem a little too early, but a session with a dentist around this time is good preventative dental care.

A range of basic preventive, treatment and specialist dental services are available free to children in New Zealand up until the age of 18.

Contact your local District Health Board with regards to the exact enrolment age in your area and for more details on oral health care as each DHB tends to vary slightly.

Choosing a dentist for your kids

Selecting a dentist for your kids comes down to personal choice.

You might want to look up details of your local school/community dental clinic who are used to working with young children and checking their teeth, or you may prefer to contact a local dental practise or your own dentist.

Before enrolling your kids find out how child-friendly they are and what paediatric services they offer.

For instance:
  • Do they take on child patients?
  • Are they tolerant and able to cope with squirming and fidgety toddlers and preschoolers?
  • Is there a kids’ corner or a play box in the waiting room to keep them entertained before your appointment?
  • Are there posters for/about kids on the walls?
  • Do they give stickers out to kids after their appointment?

Ask friends, family and your health visitor for local recommendations.

What will happen at your kids first dental check up?

Many first visits to the dentist are nothing more than introductory icebreakers to acquaint your kids with the dentist and the practice. It's likely to be a short, relaxed appointment of no more than 15-30 minutes.

Ideally schedule the appointment early in the day when your kids are at their most alert and fresh.

If they’re old enough to understand, talk about the visit beforehand and provide lots of reassurance to help build their trust in the dentist. This will prove invaluable if your kids need to be treated later for any dental problems.

For children under 36 months, parents may need to sit in the dental chair and hold their little one during the examination.

Sometimes parents of older children may be asked to wait in the reception area so a relationship can be built between your kids and the dentist.

During the appointment the dentist will want to have a look at your kids teeth and depending on their age, will be checking for:
  • How many baby teeth are present
  • How and where their teeth are growing
  • Any signs of decay (discolouration or spotting on their teeth)
  • How well their teeth are being cleaned
Your dentist may also ask if your kids regularly uses a dummy or suck their thumb, and talk to you about teeth-friendly foods and which sugary foods to avoid.

The dentist should also be able to answer any questions you have and try to make you and your kids feel comfortable throughout the visit.

The dentist will encourage your kids to keep brushing twice a day, and show you the best way to do this.
Finally, once the check up is over your kids may be given some fun stickers or an activity book as a reward to take home with them.

Follow up dental appointments

Remember to set up your kids next dental appointment as you leave.

Most dentists will want to see toddlers every 6 months to 1 year to ensure their teeth are developing well.

Some dentists may schedule interim visits for every 3 months when your kids are very young to help build up their confidence level or to treat a developing problem.
In between visits, remember to brush your kids teeth twice a day using a child’s toothbrush and a toothpaste specially designed for children of their age.

More kids teeth articles to enjoy: Image source: pregnancyandbaby

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