Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist
Some parents choose to bring their child as soon as teeth begin to erupt, and others choose to wait until their child is a little older. While it is ultimately a personal choice, good home care and a long established brushing routine with your child of paramount importance prior to this visit. The first dental visit is usually brief and involves very little treatment. We may ask the parent to sit in the dental chair and hold their child during the examination. If they are eager to cooperate, we will gently examine their teeth and gums. X-rays may be taken (to reveal decay and check on the progress of permanent teeth under the gums), we may complete a polish of their teeth and provide a fluoride treatment to help protect the teeth against decay. If they are hesitant, the visit may only be a ride in the chair. Most important of all, we will review with you how to clean and care for your child’s teeth. Our goal with this first appointment is to make it a fun and exciting experience for them! The more we are able to engage them and make it interesting for them, the more likely they will be excited for their next appointment!
What should I tell my child about the first dental visit?
We are asked this question many times. We suggest you prepare your child the same way you would before their first haircut or medical doctors appointment. Your child’s reaction to his first visit to the dentist may surprise you! The key is to get them excited to see the dentist and to have their first cleaning.
Here are some “First Visit” Tips:
- Let them know we have a children’s area specifically designed with them in mind, with several books about dentistry, brushing and flossing, story books and fun facts. They will see our office isn’t a scary place to be and will be excited for their turn in the chair.
- Read books with them about going to the dentist.
- Review with them what the dentist will be doing at the time of the first visit.
- Speak positively about your own dental experiences!
- Get them excited about brushing and flossing! If they are cavity free, we will take their picture for our cavity free wall and they will be entered into a draw that month for fun prizes!
During their first visit the dentist will:
- Examine their mouth, teeth and gums.
- Evaluate adverse habits like thumb sucking.
- Evaluate if they would benefit from a fluoride treatment.
- Teach you about cleaning their teeth and gums.
- Suggest a schedule for regular dental visits.
What about preventative care?
We are concerned with all aspects of preventive care for your child. Dental sealants are one such example of prevention that can go a long way to protect your child’s teeth from decay and ultimately the need to place a filling which is more invasive. So what exactly is a dental sealant? It’s a thin coating applied to the biting surface of a tooth which acts as a barrier that can prevent decay. It fills the grooves that easily collect debris and bacteria, making the tooth smoother and easier to keep clean. Placing a sealant does not require freezing and is not painful for your child. If our schedule allows for it, sealants can be completed at their cleaning appointment. This is just one of the ways we will set the foundation for your child’s lifetime of good oral health.
Often cavities are due to a diet high in sugary foods and a lack of brushing. Limiting sugar intake and brushing regularly, of course, can help. The longer it takes your child to chew their food and the longer the residue stays on their teeth, the greater the chances of getting cavities.
Every time your child eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately 20 minutes. During this time the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure, eventually leading to cavities.
Consistency of a person’s saliva also makes a difference; thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When your child eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn allows more of the acid-producing bacteria that can cause cavities.
Tips for Cavity Prevention
- Limit frequency of meals and snacks.
- Encourage brushing, flossing and rinsing.
- Watch what your child drinks.
- Avoid giving your child sticky foods.
- Make treats part of meals.
- Choose nutritious snacks.
The first baby teeth that come into the mouth are the two bottom front teeth. You will notice this when your baby is about 6-8 months old. Next to follow will be the 4 upper front teeth and the remainder of your baby’s teeth will appear periodically. They will usually appear in pairs along the sides of the jaw until the child is about 2 1/2 years old.
At around 2 1/2 years old your child should have all 20 teeth. Between the ages of 5 and 6 the first permanent teeth will begin to erupt. Some of the permanent teeth replace baby teeth and some don’t. Don’t worry if some teeth are a few months early or late as all children are different.
Baby teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent teeth but they are important to chewing, biting, speech and appearance. For this reason it is important to maintain a healthy diet and daily hygiene.