When & What Is My Child’s First “Regular” Visit?
The current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentist is that a child should attend a first dental visit with his/her parent at the age of one. The purpose of these early visits is to discuss the process by which dental decay occurs and help parents practice proper oral hygiene with their young children as their primary teeth begin to develop.
The first “regular” dental visit should be just after your child’s third birthday. We will gently examine your child’s teeth and gums. X-rays may be taken (to reveal decay and check on the progress of your child’s permanent teeth under the gums). We may clean your child’s teeth and apply topical fluoride to help protect the teeth against decay. We will make sure your child is receiving adequate fluoride at home. Most important of all, we will review with you how to clean and care for your child’s teeth.
What Dental Problems Could My Child Have?
Some dental problems begin very early in life. One concern is baby bottle tooth decay, a serious condition caused by a child staying on the bottle (or breast) too long. Another problem is gum disease. About 40 percent of children two to three years old have at least mild inflammation of gum tissues. Oral habits (such as thumb or finger sucking, tongue thrusting) should also be checked. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chances of preventing problems. Strong, healthy teeth help your child chew food easily, speak clearly, and feel good about his or her appearance.
Why Are Baby Teeth So Important?
Primary teeth are important because they help with proper chewing and eating, help in speech development, and add to an attractive appearance. A child who can chew easily, speak clearly, and smile confidently is a happier child. Healthy primary teeth allow normal development of the jaw bones and muscles, save space for the permanent teeth, and guide them into place. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, permanent teeth may come in crooked. Decayed baby teeth can cause pain, abscesses, infections, and can spread to the permanent teeth. Also, your child’s general health can be affected if diseased baby teeth aren’t treated. Remember, some primary molars are not replaced until age 10-14, so they must last for several years.
What Should I Tell My Child About Their First Dental Visit?
We are asked this question many times. We suggest you prepare your child the same way that you would before their first hair-cut or trip to the shoe store. This will not be the frightening experience you may remember from your youth. If you are nervous about the trip, then the less you say the better. You cannot hide your anxiety from a child (they have radar for these things). Children may be nervous to visit their pediatric physician. They may begin to feel nervous about seeing the dentist. Unfortunately, many children walk into the office with tears, but It is best to say that that “you will find your first visit a lot easier than you think.”
Starting children early, at the age of one, when they don’t have teeth, may also be a great way to get the young patient comfortable in the dental setting and a great way to start learning about and incorporating prevention into his/her healthy lifestyle.