By 2 1/2 most children have cut all of their baby teeth, so toddlerhood is a great time to instill good dental habits. “Baby teeth are important because they hold space for permanent teeth. Decay in baby teeth also increases the risk of decay in permanent teeth.Although dentists now recommend that kids see a dentist for the first time by their first birthday, twice-yearly dental checkups and proper care at home are the keys to ensuring pearly whites throughout childhood.
The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. This visit gives your child an opportunity to meet the dentist in a non-threatening and friendly way. Some dentists may ask the parent to sit in the dental chair and hold their child during the examination. The parent may also be asked to wait in the reception area during part of the visit so that a relationship can be built between your child and the dentist.
What To Expect at the Office
The age 1 care visit is similar to a well-baby check at the physician’s office.
At the visit, you should expect the dentist or hygienist to:
- Review your child’s history
- Respond to your questions and concerns
- Talk with you about your child’s overall oral health, including:
- Bite (how your child’s teeth will come together)
- Soft tissues such as gums and cheeks
- Oral habits such as sucking
- Factors that affect the risk of cavities, such as diet, hygiene practices, fluoride use and whether others in the family have had cavities
- How to prevent trauma to your child’s mouth
Thoroughly examine your child’s mouth in the knee-to-knee position. You and the dentist sit on chairs facing each other. Your child sits on your lap, facing you. You then lay your child back with his or her head in the dentist’s lap. In this position, both you and dentist can see clearly into your child’s mouth and your child can look up at you.
- Show how to clean your child’s teeth and give you a chance to practice
- Give specific advice about home care, including hygiene, diet and use of toothpaste and other fluorides
- Tell you what to expect as your child grows and develops in the coming months
- Suggest a schedule for follow-up care
In case the dentist needs additional health information.
If your child has a sucking habit, be it thumb, pacifier, or bottle, let the dentist know, as it may affect your child’s teeth and jaw. Also, be aware that sleeping with a bottle of milk or juice can cause tooth decay. “During sleep, liquids in the mouth — which are full of sugar and bacteria — pool around the teeth and erode them.
Talk to your child about what’s going to happen. Practice brushing with your child beforehand, too, so she will be used to having a toothbrush in her mouth.
The dentist or hygienist may also clean your child’s teeth. This is likely to occur if your child’s teeth have a stain that commonly appears in infants. The dentist or hygienist also may apply fluoride, particularly if your child has a higher than average risk of developing cavities.
Before leaving the office, you should have a clear idea about:
- Your child’s development
- Your responsibilities
- Follow-up care by the dentist
- Your child’s likelihood of having problems with cavities or bite
You should have your questions answered. You also should know what you and the dentist can do together to make sure your child has excellent oral health.