Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 children in the United States has at least one untreated decayed tooth? Could your child be part of this group? It’s possible, especially if they’ve never visited a pediatric dentist (children’s dentist) for a checkup. Not sure why you need to take your child for a dental checkup?

Need to know when to schedule their first appointment? Read on to learn everything you need to know.

Why Dental Care Matters for Kids

Some people assume that dental care and teeth cleanings aren’t important for young children because they’re going to lose their baby teeth anyway. In reality, though, dental checkups play a key role in setting your kid up for good lifelong oral health.

The following are some of the greatest benefits your child (and you) will enjoy when you start prioritizing regular checkups now:

Prevent Tooth Decay

Regular dental cleanings help to keep your kid’s teeth and gums healthy and free from decay. This, in turn, reduces their chances of developing cavities and needing fillings at a young age.

Can’t you just brush your child’s teeth at home? Sure, you can.

However, taking kids in for a professional cleaning a couple of times per year will make it easier to address the hard-to-reach areas. You’ll also be able to learn about potential issues early and get them taken care of as soon as possible.

Prevent Early Tooth Loss

Yes, your child will lose their baby teeth eventually. However, keeping them clean and healthy will ensure that they don’t fall out before they’re supposed to.

Premature baby tooth loss can harm other areas of your child’s life. For example, they may have trouble with speech development, chewing their food, and even retaining nutrients from their food.

Establish Good Habits

The sooner you start taking your child to the dentist, the easier it is for them to develop good habits as they get older. They’ll learn the importance of brushing and flossing from an early age, which will decrease their chances of dealing with tooth decay, cavities, and other issues.

Save Money

Some parents might be hesitant about taking their young child for dental checkups because they’re worried about the extra cost. It’s important to note, though, that the cost of having cavities filled or severely decayed teeth pulled will be much higher than the cost of a regular checkup.

Remember, you can save a lot of money later on if you make your child’s dental health a top priority now.

Reduce Anxiety

It’s normal for kids to feel anxious when going to the dentist. If they start going for checkups when they’re young, there’s a good chance they will be less intimidated by the dentist and their teeth cleaning procedures as they get older.

By combating dental anxiety from an early age, you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll continue making good dental health a priority as they age (including when they reach adulthood).

When to Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Appointment

Most experts recommend taking your child for their first dental visit sometime around their first birthday (or when they have their first tooth). That’s right, from the time they’re one year old, they ought to start getting used to going to the dentist.

The earlier you take your child to the dentist, the less frightening it will be as they get older. Taking them in around their first birthday will help them to feel more at ease when they sit in the dentist’s chair moving forward.

If you’ve already missed the first birthday or first tooth milestone, don’t panic. Just try to make your child’s first appointment as soon as you can. You can still create positive associations with the dentist now and in the future.

Tips for a Successful First Dentist Appointment

Speaking of creating positive associations, there are lots of steps you can take to set your child up for a successful first dental checkup. Here are a few tips that will reduce dental anxiety and help you and your child feel calm and comfortable during the appointment:

Make It Exciting

When you talk about going to the dentist for a checkup, make it seem fun and exciting. Don’t talk about how it’s a scary place and use an upbeat tone of voice.

Remember, your child will pick up on your fear and anxiety. Do your best to mask these feelings and focus on presenting the dentist as a positive place.

Let Them Practice

You can ease anxiety and increase your child’s confidence by letting them “practice” before they go to the dentist for their first checkup. Have them lie down on the couch or sit back in a chair while you gently brush and floss their teeth. You can also let them look at your teeth to help them feel more comfortable.

Schedule It at the Right Time

Try not to schedule your child’s appointment at a time when they would normally be napping. If they show up at the dentist’s office cranky and tired, they’re going to be more likely to have an unpleasant experience.

Let Them Eat Before

Let your child eat a meal or snack an hour or so before the appointment, too. If they’re hungry, they’re also more likely to be cranky and less-than-thrilled with the visit as a whole.

Don’t Use Treats as a Reward

There’s nothing wrong with offering your child a reward after they finish their first dental appointment. However, try not to make it something that undoes the dentist’s work. Giving them a giant lollipop isn’t exactly ideal after they’ve just had their teeth cleaned, right?

Instead, consider a reward that’s not treat-related. Take them to the park or let them pick out a small prize at the dollar store on the way home. This creates a positive association, but it’s not also fueling unhealthy habits.

Schedule Your Child’s Dental Checkup Today

Now that you know more about the importance of scheduling a dental checkup for your child, are you ready to ahead and make an appointment?

If you live in or around the Greensboro, North Carolina area, we’re here to help at Carolina Smiles. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our pediatric dentistry services.