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Experts Corner

Dentistry

The First Visit to the Dentist
by Jennifer Holtzman, DDS, Executive Director, ToothWoman Network

Jennifer Holtzman, DDSItís important that you and your childís dentist develop a strategy that will reduce the chances of tooth decay and gum disease and all the consequences that those diseases can bring. Your childís dentist can help you to assist your child to develop the good habits that can give your child a healthy advantage. Meeting your dentist before an emergency gives you the time to ask questions about how best to help your child keep their mouth clean and healthy. An additional benefit of this appointment will be that it makes you and your child more comfortable with your childís dentist so if situations do develop that require treatment, youíre both more comfortable with the appointment.

It used to be suggested that kids see a dentist around 3 years of age. That age was selected most likely because of the ability for three years olds to cooperate in a dental office. But if you wait that long, it may be too late to avoid dental procedures that could easily have been prevented. Tooth decay can start as soon as kids have teeth, so by the time a child is 12 months old, they need to have already had their first dental visit, to allow your childís dentist time to talk to you and for you both to develop a plan for your childís health. Why is time such an important factor? Baby teeth are substantially different than adult teeth: they have less enamel and the nerves of the teeth are relatively bigger than in adult teeth so a small cavity has a greater potential for damage, and very quickly.

A cavity left undetected in an infant can be devastating. The pain of a toothache can result in a child refusing food and nourishment. If children arenít getting enough nourishment they may fail to grow and thrive, as they would be expected to. Failure to thrive is an extremely serious condition, and can even mean a hospital visit.

What to Expect at Your Childís Dental Visit

The actual examination for a child at this age may well happen with the baby supported by your lap with the babyís head resting in the dentistís lap, with both of your and the dentistís knees touching. The dentist will look in your childís mouth to see if all is developing, as it should. How often your child will return for subsequent examinations is determined by what the dentist sees in your childís mouth, as well as your childís potential for developing dental disease.

The Goals of this Dental Visit are:

  1. For the dentist to examine your babyís mouth

  2. Your babyís dentist needs to determine the risk of your baby developing problems in their mouth

  3. Your babyís dentist to discover and stop potential problems such as tooth decay

  4. Your babyís dentist to go over with you the most effective way to clean your babyís mouth

  5. For you to become familiar with the specific things you need to do for your child to prevent tooth decay.

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