Infants and preschool children
Experts recommend that your child's visits to a dentist start when the first primary teeth appear or by 12 months of age. Babies with dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem should be seen by a children's (pediatric) dentist right away. If these dental problems aren't limited to the surfaces of the teeth, the baby should also be seen by a children's doctor (pediatrician) or the family doctor.
By the time your child is 6 months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having future dental problems. This may include a dental exam of the mother and her dental history. (The condition of the mom's teeth can often predict her child's teeth.) After your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.
Adults, teens, and school-age children
Your dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Many people should see their dentists once or twice a year. Your dentist will check your teeth and gums for signs of tooth decay, gingivitis, and other health problems.
- Your dental hygienist will begin to clean your teeth by scraping hard mineral buildup (tartar) off of your teeth with a small metal tool. Then the hygienist will floss your teeth and use a polishing compound. Cleanings usually aren't painful.
- Occasionally your dentist will want to take X-rays. The X-rays take only a few minutes.
- Your dentist or technician will have you put on a heavy apron to shield your body from X-rays. Everyone else in the room will either wear a protective apron or step behind a protective shield.
- Your dentist or technician will have you bite down on a small piece of plastic. This will help align the teeth properly for the machine. Your dentist or technician will repeat this process several times to get pictures of all your teeth.
- If needed, your dentist will put a sealant on the chewing surface of your back teeth to help prevent cavities. Sealants keep food and bacteria from getting stuck in the rough chewing surfaces or grooves of your teeth, and they protect your teeth from plaque.
- Your dentist or hygienist may apply a fluoride solution directly to your teeth to help prevent tooth decay. Your dentist may recommend a series of fluoride applications.
- Your dentist or hygienist may ask you about the foods you eat. What you eat and whether you get enough vitamins and minerals can affect your dental health.
- If you have active tooth decay or gum disease, your dentist will talk to you about changing your brushing or flossing habits. In severe cases, he or she may recommend antibiotics, special mouthwashes, or other dental treatments. If your teeth and gums appear healthy, your dentist will recommend that you continue your usual brushing and flossing.
Current as of: November 14, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Arden Christen DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry