Studies have shown that taking steps like creating a strong bedtime dental hygiene routine can have positive long-term effects. In other words, setting your child up for good oral health in the future starts in the present.

How you practice oral hygiene at home is one of the most important tools for laying a strong foundation. However, regular visits to the family dentist are also a must. 

How often should you take your child to the dentist? When should dentist appointments start? What are the signs that you need to schedule an emergency visit?

In this dental guide, we’ll answer all of these questions and more. Read on to find out how to partner with your child’s dentist to encourage great oral health.

When Should You Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Appointment?

Some parents are surprised to learn that dentist’s appointments should start quite early. As per ADA recommendations, you should schedule that first appointment when your child reaches one year of age or within six months of their first tooth erupting, whichever comes first.

Why so early? Once your baby starts cutting teeth, they’re going to undergo a lot of fairly rapid dental changes. Staying in communication with your dentist can help you prepare for these changes, provide proper dental care, and stay on top of preventative treatment as needed.

How Often Should You Schedule a Regular Dental Cleaning?

When we think about going to the dentist, we typically think about those regular dental cleanings. During a cleaning, the dental team removes plaque, provides expert flossing and toothpaste cleaning, and completes a protective fluoride treatment. This is also the time for the dental team to look for signs of dental issues like cavities, gingivitis, misalignments, and more.

Just like adults, children should have a regular dental cleaning once every six months. A thorough cleaning every six months can lower the chances of developing those dental issues, which are often painful, disruptive, and stressful. 

What Are the Signs That Your Child Needs an Emergency Appointment?

Sometimes, a dental issue can’t wait until the next scheduled appointment. Even with regular preventative care, issues can arise that warrant an “emergency” appointment, meaning one that happens quickly and outside of that biannual window. Let’s take a look at the signs that you might want to give your family dentist a call between cleanings.

Pain or Sensitivity

Pain and tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of things, including cavities or worn enamel. Verbal children will often express to you that they have pain in their mouth or experience uncomfortable feelings when eating or drinking things that are hot or cold. Nonverbal children may exhibit signs of pain and sensitivity by putting their hand to the pained area, refusing to eat or drink, or becoming distressed when something triggers that unpleasant feeling. 

Signs of Decay

Did you know that baby teeth, while they’ll eventually fall out, shouldn’t rot or decay? Damage or early loss of a baby tooth can cause subsequent dental issues, weaken the immune system, and more. Keep an eye out for signs of decay, even in those baby teeth, which can include things like discoloration, stinky breath, and swelling around the gums.

Chips, Cracks, and Other Oral Injuries

Many kids are rough and energetic, and accidents can happen that impact oral health. If your child sustained a blow to the face (i.e. getting hit with a ball or falling off of a bike), make sure to inspect their teeth for chips, cracks, or sudden losses. If you notice any oral injuries like these, call your dentist and make an appointment to have the teeth repaired so that the damage doesn’t get worse or cause secondary problems.

How Can You Prepare Your Child for Their Dentist Visit?

It’s no secret that children benefit from routine and may not feel too good about having that routine disrupted. With young children and children with disabilities, in particular, you may need to take some extra steps to assuage their worries about their upcoming dentist visit. Each child is unique and may require a unique approach, but we do have two tips that every parent can try. 

Explain With a Smile

Making the visit more predictable can make your child feel less scared and apprehensive. In the days or weeks leading up to the appointment, you may want to have short but informative conversations about what to expect, asking your child if they have any questions or concerns. When you talk about going to the dentist, be sure to do so with a smile, reminding your child that going to the dentist is a positive thing that will help them to develop strong teeth.

Include Your Dental Team in the Conversation

When you make an appointment with your pediatric dentist, don’t hesitate to share any health updates with the team. You can also let the team know if your child needs special accommodations or feels anxious about coming. At Smile Kentuckiana, our goal is to help each of our patients and their families feel comfortable, safe, and respected. 

Use This Dental Guide to Set Your Child Up for a Life of Oral Health

We hope this dental guide has been helpful in creating a dental plan for your child!

From an early age, it’s beneficial for your child to visit the dentist every six months. You may also have to schedule appointments in between those biannual visits to address dental emergencies. Early oral hygiene can pave the way for a lifetime of oral hygiene!

At Smile Kentuckiana, we’re proud to serve Kentucky families with specialized dental care. We make it our priority to accommodate each of our patients to create anxiety-free dental appointments. To schedule your child’s next appointment, contact us today!