The answer to this question is quite simple…. as soon as they can comfortably sit in a dental chair by themselves or lay back on a parent’s lap. Dental schools often state a magic age of 3 years old. However, this has absolutely no scientific foundation.
Unfortunately, many parents wait until their child has a toothache or an obvious cavity before bringing them to the dentist. This creates a situation in which one of the first experiences a child has with a dentist involves invasive and threatening procedures. It takes approximately 7 good experiences to repair the psychological damage of 1 bad experience in a dental office. It should be clear that it would be better for the child’s psychological development to have several fun and enjoyable dental experiences before having to have any type of invasive procedures performed.
In our office, we encourage all young mothers, or even expecting mothers, to bring their infants in with them to their own dental appointments. This enables the child to become familiar with our office, sounds, and attire in a non-threatening manner. I’ll usually perform a brief examination of an infant’s mouth and palate at no charge for our patients of record to introduce him or her to dental care sensations and to check early on for developmental problems such as cleft palate. Oral hygiene instructions and dietary counseling can also be presented to the parents at these early appointments as well. The earlier a child is introduced to dental care, the better.