About the Expert
Dr. Thien Tran is a board-certified pediatric dentist with a passion for helping children develop healthy smiles. He obtained his dental degree and postdoctoral pediatric training at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. He and his team at PebblePath Pediatric Dentistry treat young patients with warmth, good humor, praise, and patience.
When should my child have their first dental checkup?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child’s first dental visit should take place when their first tooth comes in or by age one — whichever comes first.
What should we expect during that first visit?
That first exam is about giving the child and parents time to familiarize themselves with the office and to develop a rapport with the staff. We welcome kids to the office and show them how fun it can be. During the exam, we look to make sure things are developing properly, and show parents how to brush and floss their child’s teeth.
How should I be caring for my child’s teeth?
Aside from regular checkups, we recommend brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing once a day. During your child’s first appointment, we can demonstrate this for you. We usually recommend brushing for them until they’re about seven or eight years old. By age seven, they can start to brush their own teeth, but you should still supervise to make sure they’re doing it right.
When should we start using toothpaste?
As soon as that first tooth comes in, you should begin using a children’s fluoridated toothpaste. For children under three, you only need to use a smear of toothpaste. After age three, you can use a pea-sized amount and have them spit afterwards.
Why do we have to care for baby teeth and fix cavities when the permanent teeth are coming in to replace them?
If your child gets a cavity, it can cause pain and infection. Also, those baby teeth are holding the spot for the adult teeth to grow in. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth around it can shift, and make it difficult for the adult tooth to come in. Also, when a very young child needs to undergo extensive dental treatment, it can leave them with a bad impression of the dentist.
How can I prepare my child for their visit?
Be positive. Studies have shown that parents can pass on their dental anxiety to their children. Discuss what will happen before the appointment day. Tell them that a nice tooth doctor will be counting their teeth and brush them to make sure they are healthy. Children have a fear of the unknown, so if you tell them too early, their imaginations may take over which can lead to anxiety. Don’t surprise them the day of the appointment though. Schedule your appointments at a time of the day when your child is in a good mood (after naps or mealtime). Also, if your child has a favorite stuffed animal or toy, feel free to bring them along, too. If your child isn’t compliant or cries, try not to stress too much about it. As pediatric dentists, we’ve seen it all, and it’ll get better as time goes on.