October 23, 2018 3 min read



- Dr. Ellis for Oral Care Club here answering a question that a lot of parents ask, which is, when's the first time I bring my little child in for a checkup? Well, unfortunately for little kids, they are pretty scared of the doctor.

And even though I am just a doctor dealing with the mouth, they don't know the difference and they look at the environment that they're being brought into, they look at the scrubs that the assistants and the dentist is wearing, and they assume that it's the doctor's office.

Typically, when children are young, doctor's office means shots, means swabbing the throat, getting throat cultures, that kind of thing. The doctor's office is usually not a very fun place for little kids, so they're very scared.

What we typically wanna do is wait til the kids are about 3 1/2 years old before we get them into the dentist for the first time. Couple reasons for that, number one is the one I just talked about, is that that gives them a little more age to kind of calm down a little bit. I have five kids myself, I know that 3 1/2-year-olds might not be the calmest things in the whole world, but it helps, it's a little older than the two, 2 1/2, three-year-olds.

Second of all is the fact that their teeth haven't really had a lot of opportunity to get into the problems that adults have. Most adult cavities come in the fact that the teeth are touching, and we don't floss. 98% of mankind has the problem with not flossing, and so the teeth touch, and we don't floss, and that's where we get most of our cavities. Well, in your little kids, they get those two front teeth, and they're just sitting there by themselves with a nice space in the middle.

You can take a toothbrush or a warm washcloth and you can completely clean all the way around those teeth. They get a couple more teeth in, still, very cleansable. So, that's one of the things is, you don't need to get your child in as soon as the first tooth pops up, because it's really easy to clean that. You keep that clean all the time. You're pretty much in control of the child's diet.

We all know that our teenagers will go off to the store, or the pop vending machines, whatever, and get sugar that we don't really want them to get. But your child, hopefully, you're in control of their diet, so you keep the sugars away and you clean their teeth really good, and then you shouldn't have much problem. But about 3 1/2 years old is the first time we recommend children coming in. And what we recommend at that stage is that they come in with their parents, and we put the child in the corner and watch their parents get their teeth cleaned.

So they can see that their parents lay back, get their teeth cleaned, sit up, nothing sharp, nothing pokey, parents didn't cry, none of that happens. We then put the child in the chair and just brush the child's teeth, and give them a prize, and tell them they did a fantastic job. And so they then learn that this is a different office than the regular doctor's office.

So, when do I bring my child in, typically 3 1/2 years old. There are always exceptions, obviously. If the teeth come in and they don't look right, or something is starting to develop early, or your child falls and breaks a tooth, they're obviously exceptions. But as a good rule of thumb, about 3 1/2 years old is a good time to bring your child in for the first time if you're doing a good job cleaning them at home and controlling the sugars that they are ingesting.