Thursday, June 20, 2013

Age When Children Should See a Dentist

There is much variability in the recommended age of when children should start visiting a dentist. There are many experts offering their opinions on this subject. Some of these experts are dentists, physicians, children's psychologist, early childhood experts and more. Their expert opinions range from newborn to the age of four. That's quite a range!

There are three main variables to consider.
  • Child Variability
  • Parent Variability
  • Dentist Variability
Teeth eruption times vary with each child. The first teeth may start to come in at 6-10 months of age. There is much variability in maturity levels as well. The more mature a child is, the easier the dental visit will be. Another consideration is the child's anxiety level. When the child isn't fearful, the appointments tend to be pleasant for them. This certainly isn't the case for the extremely fearful child.

Child with extreme apprehension of dentistry
Child with a positive dental attitude

The parents play a major role in shaping the child's first dental visit. If the parent has a positive view of dentistry, then the child will also more often than not have a positive experience. If the parent is highly dental phobic, then the parent will inadvertently transfer their fears onto their children. This can occur without the parent even uttering a word to their child. Children are highly intuitive. They can sense the emotions of others by mere observation.

The age at which my fellow dentists start seeing children varies greatly as well. We all have slightly different philosophies as to when we start seeing children in our offices. For me, age is not really that important. What is important for me is the child's level of cooperation. If they aren't fearful, then it's never a problem. When they are fearful, it makes it rather difficult to assess and treat any problems they may have. The single most important factor in my opinion is the parent's feelings about dentistry in general.

The sooner a child starts visiting a dentist, the better. If we can see them for a routine exam on their first visit, it makes future visits much simpler. If however the first visit is an emergency visit, it will almost certainly be a stressful event for the child and will therefore set them up to be dental phobic for their entire lives. Another reason why you should get them in sooner than later is that any potential treatment will be less expensive, less extensive and more predictable.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child make their first visit when the first tooth comes in. Usually around six months of age. The bottom line is to get them in as soon as you can--preferably by their first birthday.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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