When is the ideal time for a child’s first visit to the dental office? It used to be three years of age when all the deciduous (baby) teeth were erupted in the mouth. More recently, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommend the first visit to occur by one year or within 6 months of the first tooth erupting. This first visit is really to establish a dental home for the child – time to look, see, feel and become comfortable with a dental office.
Importance of primary teeth not recognized
According to recent survey completed by Delta Dental, among children who have never visited the dentist or who have not seen a dentist in the last 12 months, the most frequently mentioned reason (62 percent) was that “the child is too young” or “doesn’t have enough teeth yet.” Lack of insurance coverage was cited by 12 percent of the caregivers.
According to the AAPD, it is very important to keep primary (baby) teeth in place until they are lost naturally. The primary teeth are important for many reasons including:
- Helping children chew properly to maintain good nutrition.
- Involvement in speech development.
- Helping save space for permanent teeth.
- Promoting a healthy smile that helps children feel good about the way they look.
Many people don’t understand how important their children’s baby teeth are to lifelong oral health. There’s a continuing need for more education to teach practices, such as proper techniques for brushing and flossing that will ensure lifelong oral health. The first dentist visit is a great opportunity for parents to learn how best to care for their children’s teeth.
Calming dental visit jitters
If you begin taking your children to the dentist around the time the first tooth erupts, then they are probably too young to be nervous. But if you’ve waited until your child is older (for example, two years), he or she may have some anxiety at the time of the first visit.
What’s the best way to prepare your child for the whirring machinery, sharp instruments and a stranger telling him or her to “open wide”?
- Give your child a sneak preview. Take your child with you for your next checkup to see you having your teeth examined and cleaned.
- Learn more about it. Lots of books and online resources are geared toward teaching children more about dental health and dentist visits. The web site has stories and fun activities to help children learn about their teeth.
- Play around. Take turns being the dentist and the patient with your child. Examine each other’s teeth with a mirror or use your fingers to count each other’s teeth so that your child will be familiar with the feel of a dentist examination.
- Timing is everything. Plan plenty of time so that the dental visit isn’t rushed, and make sure your child is well rested before the visit so that he or she feels relaxed and comfortable.
Importance of A Healthy Mouth for Mother During Pregnancy
According to recent research, the mother should be seen during pregnancy to be sure her mouth is healthy and not harboring high levels of acid-producing Streptococcus Mutans (S. mutans). Bringing mother’s mouth to health will ensure she passes a good oral flora on to her baby after birth. The bacteria are passed from mother to baby through shared saliva from kissing, tasting food, and sharing utensils. That being said, we shouldn’t forget the fathers, grandparents, or nannies.
The child’s first visit should be for Mom, Dad and any other caregivers that spend time with the baby. Making sure these people have good oral health is the first step in the preventive process for the child. The child’s first visit is really for the family of caregivers!
Frank Orlando, DDS, FAGD, FICOI maintains a private dental office in Midtown Manhattan focused on Comprehensive Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry with a specific focus on Oral Systemic Health. He strives to educate patients on oral health as an integral part to systemic health. As a founding member of the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health and a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry and The International Congress of Oral Implantologists, Dr. Orlando is well versed in all aspects of general and advanced dentistry with a continual focus on improving your oral health to optimize your overall systemic health.
For a free list of oral and dental health DO’s and DON’Ts for new mothers and mothers-to-be, or to receive an oral health consultation, women who are pregnant or in the planning stages may contact him:
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The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.