Dental Visit Frequency for Children
As soon as a baby's initial dental appointment before their first birthday, it's important to establish a regular rhythm of visits to their pediatric dentist to protect their oral health and keep them on track for a healthy smile.
How Frequently Should Children be Evaluated?
Every child is different, and every set of developing teeth has different needs. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that for all children, a minimum of two visits per year to a pediatric dentist is needed to ensure healthy dental development. This frequency is recommended for a number of important reasons. First, teeth cleanings at each visit help rid the teeth of cavity-causing plaque buildup that regular brushing and flossing alone cannot remove. Regular appointments also give the pediatric dentist the opportunity to provide fluoride treatments if necessary, and to answer any questions the child or the parent might have about oral health.
Another important reason for a child to visit the dentist frequently is to assess the need for sealants. Sometimes, cavities are nearly unavoidable due to the buildup of bacteria in the tiny cracks and grooves in teeth that are impossible to reach, regardless of how good a job the child does at brushing. In these cases, the dentist can apply a sealant, which fills up these cracks and grooves with a durable plastic that protects the tooth from developing these stubborn cavities.
Regular Checkups: What to Expect
Each visit to the dentist will include a tooth cleaning and polishing. In many cases, a fluoride treatment is also applied. Pediatric dentists and their specialized staff take their time to explain what they are doing every step of the way to both parents and children in ways that are friendly non-threatening. The dentist will also provide the child with helpful tips and advice on how to improve their oral health like new brushing or flossing techniques, or explanations about the effects of sugary foods and beverages on teeth.
While X-rays are sometimes indicated after an exam of the child's teeth and gums, this is not necessary for every visit. The dentist will always discuss with parents whether or not they think an X-ray is necessary and why before ordering the test.
The very best way to help a child maintain good habits and overall oral health is through frequent and regular checkups with their pediatric dentist. Aside from regular cleaning and preventative care, visits to the dentist should be a fun and supportive experience that help to encourage a child to take good care of their smiles throughout childhood and beyond.