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When Do You Start Taking Your Toddler to the Dentist?

My toddler daughter (17 months) has her upper/lower back molars coming in and I'm wondering if it's time to start taking her to a pediatric dentist? When is a good time to start? She's good about brushing her teeth (twice daily) or we clean them for her. What happens at these visits? Not sure if I can picture my kid sitting still in the dental chair but if anyone can elaborate on their experiences, that would be helpful!

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The soonest my dentist would see my children was age 2. I started taking them at 2 and they have never had a bad experience.

I think it depends on the dentist. Most family dnetists seem to reccomend three years old but most pediatirc ones want to see them shortly after thier first teeth come in and then once a year until they are ready for regualr cleanings. Being a military family we have moved around a lot and received several different reccomendations. My oldest did not see a dentist until age 3 but do to fears didn't have his teeth cleaned until 4. My next at 2 1/2, my third at 2 and the last two both saw the dentist before they were one. In toddlers they simply take a look and brush the teeth with a regualr tooth brush. The idea is for the visit to be pleasant.

We also have a 17 month old boy and want to take him to the dentist! We think it is important to do it now so he isn't scared! And they have teeth, so they should see a dentist, right? But a lit of dentists will say to bring them in when they are 2 or 3 and I think that is too old! Do you have a dentist in mind? We are new to the area and need a recommendation too!

Andrea, Micki and Javier

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Dear G.,
I used to work for a pediatric dental specialist. It is not uncommon for children to see the dentist once they have their teeth and certainly 18 months is not too early. Unless there is obvious decay or something, the first visit is usually just about watching a video about teeth cleaning and getting them used to the environment and trying to get a non threatening evaluation done regarding brushing habits, etc. A good pediatric dentist usually knows how to deal with a child that may be timid or wiggly, etc. They can let the child hold a mirror and help with counting teeth, etc. I can't remember how young she was, but we got my daughter's first x-rays and knew very early on when her big teeth started coming in she wouldn't have enough room for them. We didn't have to actually deal with it until she was older, but she did have to have teeth pulled because there was no room in her mouth for all the teeth that would come in and they would get pushed out of shape and overlap. Her father had the same thing. Anyway, like I said, we knew early on what would happen when her big teeth would come in so we were prepared for it. I think it's best to start kids out early going to the dentist because it just becomes something you do to take care of their teeth and you have less chance of them freaking out later, especially if they need any work done.
If you can afford it, call around to pediatric dental specialists in your area to get a feel for how they deal with children and when they think is a good time to schedule an appointment. At the office where I worked, we always gave the kids a balloon and a goody bag with sugarless suckers and all kinds of neato toothbrushes and rinses and cute floss and stickers for keeping up their brushing. The first visit is usally pretty low key.

Best wishes!

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Hi G.. Good for you for being on top of your daughter's dental health! I am a dentist (not pediatric, but I do see kids), and I noticed a lot of responders are stating that their dentist recommends age 3 or 4. Those dentists may be a little old-school (or not as patient with young children). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry are now recommending children to see the dentist around the time the first teeth come in, or by their 1st birthday. The dentist will be able to spot any early problems (which are rare), go over a family history (since cavities are contagious, and tend to run in families, and there is a good amount of genetic component in oral health), and do a quick and easy exam and cleaning. The visit shouldn't take long. Now would be a great time to have your daughter see the dentist. Kids tend to be more curious (rather than fearful) at a younger age, and it is usually a great experience. Hope this helps! Good luck! - N. :)

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We took our daughter when she was 2 but I read you should take them once they get teeth. We go to a pediatric dentist who is use to dealing with squirmy toddlers. They had us dress she is party clothes, showed her around the office, let her play with the office dog and took her picture. They did look at her teeth but it seemed like it was about us learning about how to help her take care of her teeth and what foods to stay away from and for her to have a very positive experience at the dentist.

I tried starting to take my son at 2, but the dentist wasn't really interested in seeing him yet so for two years he went with me to watch what they did to me and would get to sit in the chair for a couple minutes to get his "teeth counted" and see if they could spot any "sugar bugs". He is now 4 and had his first real dentist visit this spring.

I started taking my daughter at 1 year. If you have DDS insurance I would take her now, if you don't 3 is probably ok. When we take our daughter she sits on my lap facing me and then we lean her back into the dds lap. At our last visit (she was 2) he showed me a couple places that had a little plaque build up and I got to discuss some discoloration on her bottom front 4 teeth.
I originally took her at 1 because she had an eruption cyst on her upper right area. Once I got there I realized that if I take her every 6 months it won't be new and she would be use to the sites and sound by 3 or 4. Also, we have dds insurance so it's free...why not?
Our dds told us to brush every day and once their teeth start to touch to start flossing.
Best of luck,
C.

HI G.,
I took my daughter when she turned 2 although my dentist recommended taking her at 18 mos. At the first appointment, they just count their teeth and make them feel very comfortable with going to the dentist. At the second appointment, they will clean her teeth. I don't think they x-rayed my daughter til she turned 3. I don't know where you live but I love my pediatric dentist. His name is Dr. Benjamin Cho and he is in Milpitas on Calaveras and Milpitas Blvd. He's great and his staff is great. Good luck! C.

Good Morning G., it is 4:30 am here in CA.
With 4 of our 5 children (one we got older through foster) we started at 15 months.
I have a wonderful dentist. Dr. D. Crockett, in Hayward Ca. He is a soft spoken man and my children have never been afraid because by the time they were 15 months old, he would have them sit in the chair, look into their mouths and would for one child who had such hard gums have to help the teeth break through. His goal was to have them comfortable enough to not have fear and to trust him.. Then ofcourse the new toothbrush and paste is always a hit! So when you go just take your child along and let her hear the noise,& see things.
I do want to say that my 2 1/2 year old grandaughter, is scared of the dentist right now because of the Nemo movie. That character is not a good thing to see. But I know that Dr. Crockett, will even work past that with her.
Good Luck,NanaGlenda

Hi G.,

I started taking my kids to the dentist once they turned 2. We have an awesome kids dentist. They totally make the kids feel comfortable. They take a picture of their first time, they show them a big false set of teeth and a big toothbrush and how to brush. Then they take Xrays and then the dentist examines their teeth. I was able to stay with mine as they were on the table just to reassure them and hold their hands. Now 5 and 8, the love going to the denstist and have remained cavity free(except for a very small spot on my son which they fixed without any shots).

God bless

I think it depends on the dentist. Most family dnetists seem to reccomend three years old but most pediatirc ones want to see them shortly after thier first teeth come in and then once a year until they are ready for regualr cleanings. Being a military family we have moved around a lot and received several different reccomendations. My oldest did not see a dentist until age 3 but do to fears didn't have his teeth cleaned until 4. My next at 2 1/2, my third at 2 and the last two both saw the dentist before they were one. In toddlers they simply take a look and brush the teeth with a regualr tooth brush. The idea is for the visit to be pleasant.

I took my son right when he turned 2. He had a blast. They let him play with moving the chair up and down and they let him play with the water spicket. I took pictures of the event. He was smiling the whole time.

Hi G.,
I called a few dentists and several pediatric dentists would not see my son before age 2 or older. I did find a great dentist in my area and took my son at age 2.

The first visit was not much. I was in the dentist's office and sat in a regular office chair. My son sat in my lap facing me and the dentist had my son lean back so he could check his teeth. I would not wear a v-neck since my son pulled my shirt and my bra was showing (kind of embarrassing). His teeth looked good and my dentist recommended act mouth wash. He said to put a little on a q-tip and put on his teeth after brushing, since a 2 year old is not able to use it correctly.

I'd always thought it was 3, so we didn't add him to insurance when he was born. Well, when his teeth came in, he had an extra tooth that was Siamese'd to his front tooth (sounds weird, but he didn't look any different really, one tooth was just bigger than the other). I found out that the dentists really want to see them as soon as they have several teeth ~ about 12-18 months. In case of problems like these and to identify anything that may be wrong in their mouth. They can also help you with reducing the probability of needing orthodontia for things you can avoid (pacifier, thumb sucking, etc).

My son went at 15 months. My daughter at 18 months (she didn't get her first tooth until 13 months though). Both sat/laid on my lap for the first exam. It wasn't bad at all. They said they were "counting teeth".

Having had a rough dental history myself, I highly recommend a pediatric dentist. Ours isn't contracted with our insurance, but we pay $3 / cleaning out of pocket. The office is scaled down to kid size, there are toys - he even has Gameboys for the kids to borrow while they wait and if they behave, during treatment to distract them.

3 years is appropriate because they are more likely to listen and follow instructions. Normally the dentist won't even do x-rays unless they see a problem. The dentist will have them open their mouths, count their teeth and look for cavities. The hygienist will use "an electric toothbrush" to clean her teeth. That is it. The more fearful you make it the more afraid she will be. It is simple and can be fun.
Until then she should brush twice a day, let her brush her teeth but come in behind her and brush her teeth really well. Teaching her good brushing habits will last her a lifetime.

My pediatrician had told me to take my son to the dentist at 3, but my dentist told me 4. I ended up taking him at 4. The first visit the dentist just counted his teeth, brushed and flossed them for him, and let him get used to Mr. Thirsty (the little tube that sucks up the saliva in your mouth.) It was very short. My dentist said the first couple of visits are like this so the child gets comfortable and doesn't develop a fear of the dentist. Good luck!

Start now! They usually do not take x-rays until 3 or 4 yo but it is good to get her in and used to the dentist. It is also nice for the dentist to have a baseline on the health of the teeth and keep an eye out for any problems. Too many people I know waited until their child was older and/or had a problem, which makes the first experiences at the dentist scary and awful, leading to a lifetime of dreading the dentist.

Definitely go with a pediatric dentist as they are SO great with the kids! My daughter hugs her dentsist every time we go in and is SO good for them when they clean AND x-ray now. She's always asking when we will go again!

At visits, your child can sit in the chair or on your lap in the chair. Most dentists allow you to be right there even if your child chooses to sit in the big chair alone. The dental assistants talk about what they are going to do (cleaning) and show the child the tools they will use; usually spinning cleaning tool, water squirted and spit vacuum tool. Some will even let the kids touch or try the tools out. They talk about chasing away "cavity or sugar bugs" on the teeth or some similar terminology and do a quick cleaning then brush on the flouride foam. Our Ped Dentist allows the child to pick a movie and puts that on with headphones that plays on a screen in the ceiling so the child is distracted while they clean. Then the dentist comes to check out, count and evaluate the teeth and you're done! Your child will receive a bag with a toothbrush, flossers, possibly a trial size toothpaste and stickers. Most will offer a toy from the "treasure chest" if the child is very good during the visit or even tolerates it.

To prime her for this, you may want to go to the library or a bookstore to check out some books on teeth and going to the dentist. Really is not much different than a trip to the doctor. Good luck!

my pediatrician recommended that i take my children to see the dentist before they turned one to forsee any possible problems. i take both my kids to the same pediatric dentist for their cleanings and check-ups. at their dentistry location they sit in my lap or seats that look like different animals in the jungle. they love the attention they get from these visits and when their teeth are being cleaned, their seats are reclined and they look up at a mini flat screen tv where they play movies. for when noises are loud in other booths they even have head phones. the flouride used when cleaning their teeth has a fruit flavor a tickles just a little. my children love the dentist and so far going has been a great experience for them. i would take your little one asap for a cleaning so you know her teeth are in the best condition possible. plus, she's less likely to scare the sooner she goes. my insurance also covered my bill completely and most likely your insurance carrier will do the same. good luck!

At three years old. The dentist recommends this age.

We have a wonderul family dentist (there's no need to go to a pediatric dentist unless you don't think your own dentist would be good with your kids.) He started seeing our kids at the age of three. He said there wasn't any need to bring them in sooner unless we suspected problems with their teeth. I wouldn't rush it, especially if your daughter is good about brushing :)

The soonest my dentist would see my children was age 2. I started taking them at 2 and they have never had a bad experience.

A good time is at 3 years old. The dentist will have her sit in the chair and get familiar with the tools. Be careful about going to a children's dentist. Some of them use drugs to calm their patients. if it's a good dentist they don't need to do that. That's why you start by taking your child to sit and start getting familiar with the environment.

We took one daughter to a children's dentist when she was 18 months as her 2 year molars were not coming in and she was in pain. I was pg so my husband sat in the dentist chair and held our daughter so she would be calm. He said to have her chew on hard things but that was abit difficult as we didn't want her to choke on anything. I would phone a children's dentist and ask them. We took our daughter to the dentist on the recommendation of her baby doctor.
F.

I agree with Jill, and I want to add that I asked our dentist's office, and they told me 3. But they added to bring him in at 2 1/2 at my 6 mo. visit. He came in with me and watched while I had my teeth cleaned, etc. He was told if he behaved, that he would get a chance to sit in the big chair too. Of course he did. It was just a try it out kind of thing and he was told at that time he needed to let mommy or daddy brush his teeth every day. He has been very compliant about tooth brushing since. When it was time to go at age 3, we went together again. He watched mommy, then he had his teeth cleaned. It went great.

Most dentists reccomend you start taking your children in before their first birthdays, some say as soon as they have a tooth! My daughter is 22 months and has been twice.

The first time they mostly talked to me, showed me what the beginnings of tooth decay looked like and talked to me about healthy habits. Then the dentist had me put my daughter on my lap and lay her back onto his knees and he used a toothbrush to coax her into opening her mouth so he could look around a little.

The second time the hygenist tried to convince my daughter to let her brush her teeth while she sat in my lap, but my daughter clamped her mouth tight! Then when the dentist came in they had me sit in the chair and put my daughter on my lap. They talked to her about "Mr. Sunshine" helping the dentist to see and he again used a tooth brush and this time his fingers a little to move her lips and take a look. They try not to traumatize and to start building a good relationship early so that if any major work is needed later it will be easier on all.

Good Luck Mama!

I would also recommend, if you don't already,taking your child with you whenever you get your teeth cleaned and examined. When they see you being comfortable in the dentists chair and that it's a "fun" experience it makes it easier for the child when it's their turn. We had to change our family dentist from a male to a female for our oldest comfort level because she was not comfortable with him. However, she loves our new family dentist.

We also have a 17 month old boy and want to take him to the dentist! We think it is important to do it now so he isn't scared! And they have teeth, so they should see a dentist, right? But a lit of dentists will say to bring them in when they are 2 or 3 and I think that is too old! Do you have a dentist in mind? We are new to the area and need a recommendation too!

Andrea, Micki and Javier

We started at three, and the first visit was sit in a chair and look at the equipment. I think she first got her teeth cleaned by the dentist at about 3 1/2 and x-rays weren't till she was 5. You should brush her teeth at least 2 times a day and make sure she gets floride, Her dr may give you the vitiman with floirde in it.

My son went to the dentist for the first time at 19 months. He is now scheduled to go every 6 months. It's very important to find, interview and visit a dentist that specializes in infants and toddlers. They're out there but it will take some persistance and search.

I didn't read through all the responses...but I don't think your daughter is too young for her first visit. And I know some people don't think a pediatric dentist is that necessary, but I do. It does make a world of difference in the way their office is set up - very kid friendly - and how the staff treat their young patients. And it can make the kids feel special because they have their own dentist. The first visit is very non threatening - counting teeth, looking around the office and meeting the dentist and staff.

Hi G.,
it's recommended that you take your child to her first visit at 1 year old. at this appointment the dentist will just look inside your child's mouth. if they she would sit still they might clean her teeth but it is doubtful. beginning this early is just to familiarize her with seeing a dentist. I would definitely recommend a pedodontist (pediatric dentist) as they are trained in working with children. if you live in the bay area I take my kids to see Joshua Solomon in Livermore, he and his staff are fantastic.
good luck
S.

I was told to take him at 2 years old.

Hello! I am glad I came across this site! There are so many good questions, but so little professional information available.

I am a pediatric dental specialist. I worked as a general family dentist for several years before specializing in children- so I feel I have a thorough understanding of both adult and child dental needs as well as the various perspectives of both professions. I am also a father of three wonderful boys. As far as timing of a dental visit, it is recommended by the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, and American Academy of Pediatricians that children have a dental home by age one or the eruption of the first tooth. The rationale is not so much for treating disease, but preventing problems before they start. I would recommend searching out through friends and family for a dentist who allows parents to be present during their childs' visit. In addition, I would search out a pediatric specialist as specialists are more in tune with the developmental needs and unique challenges of children. Every office is different with respect to a child's first dental visit, however, most offices do not attempt xrays until the child is older and more cooperative and their is a unique diagnostic need for the xray. The first visit will incorporate a dental cleaning (FYI- studies have demonstrated a toothbrush cleaning is as effective as a rubber prophy cup), possible selective scaling, oral hygiene instruction with child and parent as appropriate, dental examination, dental consultation, possible xrays, and possible professional fluoride treatment to help strengthen the teeth and prevent tooth decay. Your child may sit in your lap, sit in a chair or examination bench. I hope this information is useful!

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