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When should your child first visit the dentist?

Most American children see their family dentist for the first time well after their second birthday, far later than recommended by dental professionals.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children visit the dentist for the first time by age 1, or within six months of the date their first tooth erupts. Primary teeth typically begin growing in around 6 months of age.

Why caring for baby teeth is important

According to the AAPD, primary (or “baby”) teeth in should stay in place until they’re lost naturally. This is because these teeth serve several important purposes:

  • They help children chew properly.
  • They’re involved in speech development.
  • They save space for permanent teeth.
  • A healthy smile helps children feel good about how they look.

Preparing for your child’s first dentist visit

If you begin taking your children to the dentist around the time the first tooth erupts, then they’re probably too young to be nervous. But if you wait until your children are older than 2 years old to take them to the dentist for the first time, they may feel anxious about their visit.

What’s the best way to prepare your child for the whirring machinery and sharp instruments, and the strangers who will be examining his or her teeth?

  • Give your child a sneak preview. Take your child to your next dental checkup so he or she can watch you have your teeth examined and cleaned.
  • Learn more about it. You can find books and online resources to teach children more about dental health and dentist visits. Try a classic children’s book about going to the dentist for the first time, such as Curious George Visits the Dentist.
  • Play dentist. 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.

Last updated Febrary 3, 2022

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.