Just as The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend, we recommend establishing a “dental home” for your child by one year of age. Doing so will ensure that your child receives the preventative and routine oral health care that he or she needs, and it will increase the likelihood that your child will practice strong oral health habits into adulthood.

Here are a few ways in which you can help your child recognize the dentist as his or her dental home.

Start early.

Starting your child with dental visits early on in life will help ensure that visits to the dentist become second nature to them. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children have their first dental appointment by age 1, or within six months after their first tooth erupts. (Primary teeth typically begin coming in at around six months of age.)

Practice preventative care.

This tip cannot be emphasized enough. Practicing strong preventative care with your child is the best way to help your child recognize the dentist’s office as a safe and secure space. The goal should be for your child to associate going to the dentist with being well—rather than with being in a medical emergency. Schedule a dental appointment for your child once every six months, and be sure to practice the dental hygiene techniques that your child’s dentist discusses with you. Doing so will help ensure that every visit to the dentist is a comfortable experience for your child, and it will reduce the likelihood of your child having to undergo emergency care.

See a pediatric dentist.

As pediatric dentists, we have seen the difference that our expertise can make in helping a child feel at home at the dentist. Pediatric dentists are experienced in helping children feel more relaxed in the dental chair, and many pediatric dentist’s offices are designed in such a way that children will enjoy visiting.

Keep in touch.

Another major part of establishing a dental home for your child is maintaining an ongoing relationship with your child’s dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, in fact, defines a “dental home” as “the ongoing relationship between the dentist who is the Primary Dental Care Provider and the patient.” We love it when parents take on a central role in their children’s dental care, and we want parents to feel that they can come to us even with minor concerns about their children’s oral health.