I took my son to the dentist for the first time when he was three years old. He was so enthralled by the toys and games in the waiting room, I don’t think he really understood where he was. It was hard to pull him away to go in for his appointment, but once in the chair, he sat incredibly still as the dentist looked in his mouth, counted his teeth out loud, made some jokes and sent him back out to play.
Phew, I thought. A stellar first visit. Until the dentist held me back and told me my son had seven cavities. He recommended general surgery. What? I was overwhelmed and terrified. I thought three was the right age to bring him in, and I was doing everything right to protect his little pearly whites.
But according to the Canadian Dental Association, children should see a dentist shortly after their first teeth erupt (check with your dentist about his or her preference). This visit is more for the parents, to help them understand exactly what they can do to prevent cavities and to help get them started on proper oral care.
Read more: What you need to know about cavities>
What should you expect? “It’s really just intended to put the child at ease, introduce him or her to the world of dentistry, and make sure they don’t need any emergency attention, which is rare,” says Vancouver orthodontist Sam Daher. A typical first session will include a quick look in the child’s mouth with a hand-held mirror and counting their teeth out loud. “You just want to get them comfortable with the dentist, and you, as a parent, want to be comfortable as well – with the dentist, the office and the environment,” he says.
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