Q: When should I start taking my child to the dentist?
A: Ideally, your child should go the dentist by her first birthday, but it's generally fine to wait until 2 or 3. Putting it off any longer than that, however, increases your child's risk for having to deal with plaque buildup or cavities at her first visit (and who wants to set that kind of precedent?). Although some parents assume that because baby teeth will eventually fall out there's little point in caring for them, this is a huge mistake. Even though you can't see them, your child's permanent teeth are developing under her primary ones and it's important to have a dentist check to see that everything in your child's mouth is developing normally. You can certainly take your child to your own dentist (if he treats kids) but a pediatric dentist is often a better option, especially for young children who may be fearful. These doctors have undergone additional training in caring for children and often have extremely kid-friendly offices (much like your pediatrician's) with toys, video games, or prizes at the end of each visit to make kids want to keep coming back. --Richard Laliberte
Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission from the September 2001 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009