What age should you start dentist check-ups?

What age should you take your little one to the dentist for the first time? What are the reasons to start early and reasons to delay?

Toddler at the dentist

I think the age for when is best to start dentist visits is one of the most varied in all of parenting advice.

You have the experts saying everything from “no later than first birthday” to “start thinking about it at age 3.”

On Becoming Babywise Book Two suggests you start no later than age one. They actually suggest when the first tooth comes in, but say to get the “well baby dental checkup” in by age one (page 111).

Why We Start Dental Check-ups at Age 1

So what do we do? We start at age one. I really don’t see a reason not to. We do have dental insurance, so cost is not a factor. I am sure if we had to pay for it I would be a little more hesitant to take the one year old in.

But I agree with the idea presented in Babbywise Book Two that they are “well-check” visits. I take my children to their well-check doctor visits even if nothing is wrong with them, so I view the dentist as no different. 

We take our children to a pediatric dentist. He suggests starting at age one. From age one up until three, they clean teeth with a toothbrush, check for possible problems and do basic evaluations.

Our dentist likes by age one so he can spot any possible problems early on. He also likes it so the child gets used to going there.

At age three, they move on to real cleanings with the real tools–although if the child is super comfortable, they will start earlier than age three. McKenna was so comfortable at the dentist that they did a “real” cleaning on her at age 2.5. 

Our family practice dentist has a different policy on young children and the dentist. He likes them to come, sit on the chairs and get comfortable with the office. He does not start any type of cleanings or check-ups until age three. 

Some reasons for taking by age one include:

  • It makes early detection and prevention possible if there are any problems. “Infants and toddlers woh suffer from decay are more likely to continue to have issues with this disease into their permanent teeth” (page 111).
  • Parents can be informed of possible problems and what to do about it. For Brayden and Kaitlyn, there were no issues. McKenna had a couple of things we needed to watch. In the end, the two things we were watching corrected on their own, but I was glad we had taken her at age one so we could correct them if intervention was needed.
  • Children can get comfortable with the dentist.
  • It follows the “start as you mean to go on” mentality.

Things to Do if You Wait

Some sources say you can wait until two or even three if you follow general rules. They are:

  • Do not put baby in bed with a bottle of juice or milk.
  • Move baby from bottle to cup at age one.
  • Limit juice and milk intake. Have those at regular meal and snack times and offer water between meals.
  • Do not have night feedings.
  • Clean teeth at home. Toothpaste isn’t necessary (and you don’t want to use fluoride toothpaste until your child can spit it out and not swallow it). 

Those rules are pretty easy to follow for a Babywise baby. If you follow those rules, you might not need to go to the dentist at age one.

So what do you do? What age do you start the dentist? Why? Do you view dentist visits as a needed habit or something you do more sporadically?

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