What Is the Right Age for a First Dental Cleaning?

By Willow Breckenridge | Jun 14, 2021

As you navigate parenthood, especially as a first-time parent, there are many things to consider for your child and their health. The doctor is there to deliver your baby, and you’ve likely scheduled appointments with the pediatrician already. These doctors have been with you and your child every step of the way. 

What about the dentist, though? Babies don’t have teeth when they’re born, and the teeth they do get come in fairly slowly. A baby doesn’t all of a sudden have a complete set of teeth. However, when your child does start to show signs of teething, you’ll want to make an appointment with the dentist as well. Is there a specific age for a first dental cleaning? 

When to Have the First Dental Visit

A baby’s teeth are just as important as an adult’s teeth. You know that they’ll lose them later on in life, but a dental appointment is about more than just those pearly whites. Think about when you go to the dentist — your dentist examines your teeth, gums, tongue and even the insides of your teeth through x-rays. 

That first set of teeth has to be strong and healthy so your baby can begin to chew foods and use their teeth to start talking. Plus, the primary set of teeth serves as a placeholder for your child’s adult teeth. This is all to say that dental care right from the beginning is extremely important for your child’s development. 

As suggested by the American Dental Association, you should take your baby for their first dental visit once their first tooth starts showing, and it should be no later than when your child turns one. Although you take your child for the first dental appointment once their teeth start coming through, the first visit usually doesn’t involve a tooth cleaning. If it does, it’s very mild. 

During the first appointment for your child and the dentist, the dentist will likely do a complete examination of your child’s oral health. The dentist may look at the jawline, gums, tooth bites and oral tissues. With more information on your child’s oral health, the dentist can recommend how you can clean your child’s teeth at home and what will be best for your child’s diet to ensure healthy growth and development of the primary teeth.

Regular cleanings will usually begin after the first appointment when your child is at least 12 months old. Taking your child to the dentist every six months will be the best practice for their future with their dental hygiene. A more involved cleaning will happen when your child is a toddler, around the age of three, when they can sit still for a more extended period.

What to Expect at a First Cleaning

Going to the dentist is a new experience for both you as a parent and your child. There will surely be a mix of emotions during the appointment, so knowing what to expect at a first cleaning can help you better prepare your child. 

As soon as your child’s teeth start coming through, they are prone to plaque and buildup. Just like your dentist cleans that off of your teeth, they’ll do that for your child’s teeth. The dentist will polish your child’s teeth and remove plaque, stains and tartar and may even apply a fluoride treatment to prevent decay.

You may have to hold your child while the dentist examines their teeth, especially if they have trouble keeping still. Additionally, the dentist will likely take x-rays to see how your child’s teeth are coming in and help prevent any potential dental issues. 

If your child is old enough to understand you, you can tell them about their trip to the dentist to prepare them. Use positive language about the dentist, read books or role-play to show them what happens at the dentist, and tell them the importance of dental care. Try to avoid bribery with treats or any other incentive — bribing makes your child think they will have an unenjoyable experience, discouraging them even more. 

Importance of Dental Hygiene from a Young Age

You as a parent want the best for your child, which means dental hygiene should be at the top of your list to keep your child the healthiest and happiest. Here are some reasons why it’s important to have regular dental care from a young age:

  • Wards Off Cavities: The dentist will provide you with information about how to clean your child’s teeth so you can help them ward off cavities
  • Prevents Further Dental Problems: Through regular checkups and x-rays, your child’s dentist can see how their teeth are growing and can provide you with practical tips to prevent dental problems or diseases.
  • Gets Them Into Healthy Habits: By starting dental health from an early age and teaching your child how to take care of their teeth, those healthy habits will follow them long into adulthood.
  • Establishes a Healthy Relationship with the Dentist: Once your child’s teeth come in, start taking them to the dentist so they can develop a positive relationship with them. 

Get familiar with your child’s dentist now so your child will have healthy oral hygiene in the future.

Help Develop Healthy Habits Now

The sooner you can get your child used to the dentist, the better! Dental hygiene is extremely important for people of all ages, even for young children.

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