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Your child's first visit to the dentist

The sooner a young child visits the dentist, the sooner they get used to the experience, and ready for a lifetime of regular check-ups and good oral health.

The good news is that NHS dental treatment is free for children up to the age of 18.

What happens at the first dental visit?

The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. This visit gives your child an opportunity to meet the dentist in a non-threatening and friendly way. Depending on the child’s age some dentists may ask the parent to sit in the dental chair and hold their child during the examination.

During the examination, your dentist will check all of your child's existing teeth for decay, examine your child's bite, and look for any potential problems with the gums, jaw, and oral tissues. If indicated, the dentist or hygienist will clean any teeth and assess the need for fluoride. He or she will also educate parents about oral health care basics for children and discuss dental developmental issues and answer any questions.

Topics your dentist may discuss with you might include:

  • Good oral hygiene practices for your child's teeth and gums, and cavity prevention
  • Fluoride needs
  • Oral habits ( thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking)
  • Developmental milestones
  • Teething
  • Good nutrition
  • Arrange dental checkups. Many dentists like to see children every six months to build up the child's comfort and confidence level in visiting the dentist, to monitor the development of the teeth, and promptly treat any developing problems.

You will be asked to complete medical and health information forms concerning the child during the first visit. Come prepared with the necessary information.

What's the difference between a paediatric dentist and a regular dentist?

A paediatric dentist has at least two additional years of training beyond dental school. The additional training focuses on management and treatment of a child's developing teeth, child behaviour, physical growth and development, and the special needs of children's dentistry. Although either type of dentist is capable of addressing your child's oral health care needs, a paediatric dentist, the staff, and even the office decor are all geared to care for children and to put them at ease. If your child has special needs, care from a paediatric dentist should be considered. Ask your dentist or your child's GP what he or she recommends for your child. Because of the general shortage of NHS dentists in some parts of the UK, finding an NHS paediatric dentist may be difficult.

When should children get their first dental X-ray?

There are no hard-and-fast rules for when to start dental X-rays. Some children who may be at higher risk of dental problems (for example, those prone to baby bottle tooth decay or those with cleft lip/palate) should have X-rays taken earlier than others. The need for X-rays will vary according to the child’s development and general health. Many children will have had X-rays taken by the age of five or six. As children begin to get their adult teeth around the age of six, X-rays can play an important role in helping your dentist. X-rays allow your dentist to see if all of the adult teeth are growing in the jaw, to look for bite problems and to determine if teeth are healthy. The amount of radiation exposure from these quick and highly focused X-rays is small, and safe for your child.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 05, 2016

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