What Age Should a Child Go to the Dentist? | RTD
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What Age Should a Child Go to the Dentist for the First Time?

Just because your child's baby teeth will fall out one day, don't think that looking after them is any less important than caring for their permanent teeth.

Children's teeth play many vital roles at all stages of their development, from making sure they can eat a wide variety of nutritious foods to helping them to speak properly and maintaining space in their jaws for their future teeth.

So you shouldn't wait until your child already shows signs of a problem before taking them to see a children's dentist. It's recommended that kids should have their first dental check before their second birthday, preferably around their first birthday or within six months of growing their first tooth.

Why are early check-ups important?

When children visit the dentist from a young age, they are more likely to feel comfortable with the experience and to consider it a normal part of their routine. This attitude may last into adulthood, helping them to maintain good habits and avoid oral health problems and dental anxiety.

Problems such as tooth decay don't always have obvious signs, or these may be missed if you're not sure what you're looking for, so it's important that your child's teeth are checked by a professional on a regular basis.

How often should kids see a dentist?

Regular dental visits are important at all ages, as they give dentists the opportunity to catch and treat minor problems before they can develop into larger ones and cause damage or suffering.

Frequent check-ups can be even more important for children, because:

  • their teeth and jaws are constantly changing
  • baby teeth are smaller, softer and thinner than permanent teeth and more easily damaged
  • children's activities and habits may put them at increased risk of dental problems or accidents

Dentists generally recommend scheduling appointments every 6 months, but this can vary depending on your child's individual needs and risks. The dentist may need to see your child more often if they need to improve their oral health or are undergoing a treatment.

What will happen during my child's visit?

Your child's first check-up is mainly concerned with helping them to feel comfortable in the dental chair and with the clinic staff and surroundings. If they feel comfortable opening their mouth, their dentist will gently count and examine their teeth using a mirror.

X-rays are not normally used for young children, unless there may be a problem and the dentist needs to get a closer look. Digital x-rays use very low radiation that is considered safe, and all steps will be taken to protect your child from unnecessary exposure.

When your child is older and starts to have regular check-ups, their dentist may discuss preventive treatments. These could include the application of fluoride to help protect their teeth against plaque and sealing pits and fissures in their teeth to prevent bacteria from entering and make them easier to clean.

Dentist appointments are also your chance to ask your child's dentist any questions or raise any concerns you have about their diet or habits, such as thumb sucking.

What oral health problems affect young children?

Children can be at risk from many of the same dental problems as adults, but some are more common than others. Checking your child's mouth regularly and knowing some of the possible warning signs to look for could help you to catch problems early, so your child can get the care they need.

Tooth decay

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in childhood, but it can usually be prevented by taking good care of your child's teeth.

Decay happens when bacteria that build up on kids' teeth feed on sugar in their food and drink and release acids. These can wear down baby teeth at a faster rate than adult teeth, forming cavities.

Cavities can usually be repaired with a filling, but a more severely decayed tooth may require root canal therapy or may even have to be extracted, so it's important to catch the problem early.

Tooth sensitivity

Some children's teeth are naturally more sensitive than others, but others may develop sensitivity if the enamel is worn down by tooth decay, erosion from acids in food and drink, teeth grinding or other causes.

Children with sensitive teeth don't have to suffer. You can reduce their discomfort by avoiding food and drink that's too hot, cold or sweet, making sure they're using a soft-bristled toothbrush, and talking to their dentist about desensitising products or treatments to repair or strengthen their teeth.

Gum disease

Gum disease may be more associated with adults, but it can still affect children whose oral hygiene is neglected or whose teeth may be crooked or misaligned and difficult to clean thoroughly.

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, characterised by red or swollen gums that may bleed when you brush your child's teeth. This can usually be treated with professional cleaning and scaling at the dental clinic combined with good home care.

Orthodontic issues

Orthodontic treatment is generally recommended from around the age of 12, by which time most children have all of their permanent teeth, but dentists may recommend treatment at a younger age to help guide the growth of teeth and jaws.

Early orthodontic assessments may be carried out from around the age of 6 to 12. Treatments may be recommended to correct a misaligned bite or to make space in the jaw to prevent problems such as crowding later on.

Teeth grinding

Involuntary teeth grinding or clenching (bruxism) is a common habit among children. While it's usually only temporary, long-term bruxism can lead to teeth wearing down or even cracking, as well as causing jaw pain, headaches and affecting children's sleep.

If your child grinds their teeth in their sleep, their dentist may recommend a custom made night guard to prevent their teeth from touching. Bruxism may also be managed by correcting a bite problem or reducing stress.

Dental injuries

Kids' active lifestyles can put their teeth at risk of injury from impacts during sports, trips and falls, fights and other causes. Dentists can provide custom mouthguards for children to wear during contact sports or other activities that involve a risk of injuries to the teeth and jaws, such as skateboarding.

If your child's tooth gets chipped, cracked or knocked out altogether, this is considered a dental emergency and needs urgent care. Not all dental injuries are visible, and you should see a dentist if your child complains of a toothache or other problem with their mouth.

Early tooth loss

Baby teeth normally start to fall out from the age of 6 to 7, but teeth may be lost prematurely if they are injured or need to be extracted by a dentist due to severe decay or another issue.

Losing a tooth early may affect the development of the permanent tooth growing beneath or may cause the teeth on either side of the gap to go crooked without support. Dentists may recommend space maintainers to hold open the gap and maintain the position of teeth until the replacement tooth comes through.

What if my child is scared of the dentist?

Dental anxiety or fear is more common in adults than children, and you can help your child to avoid it by bringing them along for regular check-ups from a young age, including joining other family members for their check-ups to increase their familiarity further.

If your child seems nervous or worried about their upcoming visit, you can try to help them by:

  • talking about dental care in positive terms
  • reading books or watching videos about dentist trips
  • making an early appointment so your child is less likely to be hungry or tired
  • arriving early so they have time to adjust to the clinic surroundings
  • bringing along favourite toys or other belongings
  • promising a reward after their visit (preferably teeth-friendly!)

How to lower your child's oral health risks

Your dentist can only do so much to help your child avoid tooth decay and other problems. You also need to take good care of their teeth and gums every day.

Healthy diet

When your child is ready for solids, you should start feeding them a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals that help to support their oral health and overall health.

Children over 12 months old should drink water as their main drink, especially fluoridated tap water that helps to protect their teeth.

Avoid sugar as much as possible, especially in snacks, fruit juices and soft drinks, as this contributes to tooth decay.

Tooth brushing

Children will normally need your help to brush until the age of 7 or 8. Like adults, kids should brush twice a day, for two minutes each time, using a soft-bristled toothbrush or electric toothbrush head.

Young children may be advised to use low-fluoride toothpaste until the age of 6, but their dentist may recommend using a small amount of full-fluoride toothpaste for extra protection. Make sure children don't swallow toothpaste, as this may lead to fluorosis.

Children's teeth should be flossed as soon as they start to touch together. They will usually need your help with flossing for longer than brushing.

Breaking bad habits

Babies should never be given sweet drinks in bottles or have honey or other sugary substances rubbed on dummies. Prolonged contact of sugar with teeth can cause them to decay.

Your dentist can advise you about ways to end habits such as thumb sucking or tongue thrusting that could damage their teeth.

See a children's dentist in the Gold Coast

If your child is due for their check-up, contact our family dentists at Robina Town Dental to arrange an appointment at our local dental clinic. Call us today on 07 5575 9100 or book online.

We welcome patients from all surrounding suburbs, including Burleigh Heads, Mudgeeraba, Miami, Varsity Lakes, Burleigh Waters, Merrimac, Mermaid Waters, Worongary and Clear Island Waters.


Better Health Channel. Dental checks for young children [Online] 2022 [Accessed February 2023] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/dental-checks-for-young-children

Better Health Channel. Oral conditions - young children [Online] 2022 [Accessed February 2023] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/oral-conditions-young-children

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