Frequently Asked Question: When should my child first go to the dentist?
The old answer was to see the dentist by age three. This recommendation was because most dentists who see kids are general dentists who did not want to see small, crying, uncooperative children, nor were their offices equipped to see small children. Most general dentists (family dentists) are doing crowns, dentures, fillings, and seeing anyone from age 3 to 100. Recently, pediatric dentists have changed the recommended first age to “First Visit by the First Birthday”. This change was in response to us seeing so many children at age three (the traditional first visit) who already had severe decay. Typically this was due to taking a bottle at night and not brushing the teeth due to a lack of education. We have seen countless children in our six months of being open who already have a mouthful of cavities by the time we first see them at age three. So we agree with the AAPD and ADA which recommend the first visit by age 1. Pediatric Dentists (like Dr. Baxter) receive special training in residency to examine and work with small children under age three.
What do we do at our age one visit? We will focus on prevention and education of the parent. This educational component is the most important part of the visit (not the actual tooth cleaning). We will discuss dietary habits, drinking with a bottle or sippy cup, any thumb sucking or pacifier habits, and review brushing habits. We will typically do a knee to knee exam (lap exam) and cleaning with children age 3 and under. This is where the child lays in the parent’s lap and leans back into the hygienist or dentist’s lap to clean and examine the teeth more easily. This is less threatening to a child than getting in a chair. Sometimes children will jump up on our benches (which don’t move) because they are used to getting on the exam table at the pediatrician’s office. If they jump up there, we will brush their teeth on our regular benches if they are comfortable. We try to make the visit as easy and comfortable for both child and parent as possible, but even still, most children do cry (some more than others!). Sometimes the children do cry and scream, but in a pediatric office we are used to this behavior and it doesn’t disrupt our office like it would a more cosmetic focused, general dentistry office. We will brush their teeth with a gentle toothbrush and examine the teeth and gums for any cavities or anything that doesn’t look normal. The last step is to paint the fluoride varnish, which is a sticky fluoride that will protect the teeth and make them stronger.
If you have any questions about oral health for infants and young children, please give us a call, or if you would like to set up an appointment, you can call us at 205-419-7444.