About Your Child's First Dentist and Eye Doctor Visits

As children grow from babies to toddlers, there are many growth milestones that are celebrated; first steps, first words, and first vacations or outings. Along with these milestones are first trips to the dentist and eye doctor.

What should you expect for your child's first visit to the dentist? How about your child's first trip to the eye doctor? Here is a guide about what you can expect and how to prepare for a child’s first trip to the dentist and eye doctor.

Dental Care Milestone: Your child’s first trip to the dentist

Your child will start teething sometime between six and eight months of age. By the time they are two and a half, they will likely have all 20 baby teeth. Some dentists recommend scheduling the first examination within six months of baby’s first tooth or by one year of age, after the initial stages of teething, but many will want to see your child around two and half or three years of age, after all of the baby teeth have arrived. 

The first dental appointment will likely be a short visit one where the dentist will:

 - Examine your child’s gums, teeth, and mouth
 - Discuss the importance of proper oral hygiene
 - Show the proper techniques for brushing and flossing
 - Talk about tooth decay
 - Discuss avoiding excess sugar consumption and thumb-sucking
 - Create a regular schedule for future dental appointments 

Although the first appointment with the dentist can be a little frightening for some children, there are three things you can do to make it a positive experience:

1. Acquaint them with the office and dental staff

Upon arrival, show your child the examination room and introduce them to the staff, before they are called for their exam. While your child is in the chair, stay with them, make sure they feel comfortable, and show them they have nothing to be afraid of. 

2. Set expectations

Prevent surprises by talking to your child about what the dentist will do during the examination. Reading them a book about a trip to the dentist can be a helpful tool. 

3. Share your experiences at the dentist

Tell your child about some of your past visits at the dentist. Speak positively about them. When he or she knows ‘nothing bad happened’ at your visit to the dentist, then it will be less intimidating for them. 

Early tooth care and prevention of cavities

Even baby teeth play an important role in chewing, biting, and the development of speech in your child. That’s why it’s important to encourage good dental care habits early on. Cavities form when bacteria in the mouth break down simple sugars and form acids that sit on the teeth and damage the enamel. Thankfully, preventing cavities is easy if you follow these 7 tips:

1. Encourage your child to floss once per day and to brush and rinse twice per day
2. Avoid foods that are sticky and will adhere to molars
3. Limit food consumption to three meals per day
4. Include sweets with meals, while limiting overall sugar intake
5. Serve fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks
6. Avoid sodas, juices with added sugars, and other sugary beverages

The CDC recommends that children begin using fluoride toothpaste at two years. Children under 3 years in age should use an amount of toothpaste that is the size of a rice grain. Children aged 3 years to 6 years in age should use no more than a pea-sized amount (0.25 g).

Baby teeth will start to give way to adult teeth around the age of five or six. Yup, that’s right, your child’s mouth is growing up already! While losing teeth is sometimes uncomfortable, let your child wiggle the tooth themselves until it comes out. This may reduce the amount of bleeding and pain they feel. With a full set of permanent chompers coming in so early, it’s even more important to establish good oral hygiene habits with your child at a young age. 

Vision Care Milestone: Your child’s first trip to the eye doctor

Taking your child to get their eyes checked is just as important as a dental exam. Here are some frequently asked questions about children’s vision care that can help prepare you for their first trip to the eye doctor:

When should I schedule my child’s first eye exam?

The American Optometric Association recommends that children have a comprehensive baseline eye exam between the ages of six and twelve months of age. Vision changes rapidly during the first stages of your child’s development and it’s important to verify that their vision is developing properly. 

How do I prepare my child for their first trip to the eye doctor?

Like their first dental visit, set expectations when preparing them for their first visit to the eye doctor. Tell them what the optometrist does and how they will check their vision. Show them pictures from the optometrist’s office and tell them stories about your past visits to the eye doctor. Selecting a doctor that specializes in pediatric optometry is also helpful for a first trip to the eye doctor. 

What should I expect from my child’s first eye exam?

Like an eye exam for adults, the eye doctor will check if your child has nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye, or other more severe conditions. Identifying vision problems early on will help avoid longer term learning and development difficulties.

Dental care and vision care should start early for children. Enforcing good oral hygiene habits and eye health care at an early age and support good health habits for a lifetime. That’s something the whole family can smile about. 

The best dental and vision insurance for your family

If you and your family need vision or dental insurance, VSP can help. We’ve partnered with Guardian Dental so you can get dental insurance for your family in minutes. And it’s easy to get vision coverage for your entire family using a VSP Individual Vision Plan. Learn more about vision insurance and dental insurance plans for you and your family.

Information received through VSP Vision Care's social media channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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