Parents frequently ask the question “When should I send my child to the dentist?” The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the pediatric dentists at Atkins, Maestrello and Associates recommend establishing a dental home for your child by their first birthday. Establishing a dental home early in a child’s life exposes the child to prevention and early intervention before problems occur, reduces anxiety, and facilitates referrals if needed.
What are the advantages of sending a one year old to the dentist? What will the pediatric dentist accomplish during an age one dental visit?
By establishing a dental home early, the pediatric dentist will:
- Assess the risk of the infant/toddler for current and future dental disease
- Evaluate the fluoride status of the infant and make appropriate recommendations
- Demonstrate to caregivers the appropriate method for cleaning teeth
- Discuss advantages/disadvantages of non-nutritive sucking (thumb-sucking, pacifiers)
- Be prepared to treat the infant/toddler if early childhood caries (cavities) are diagnosed
- Be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to deal with dental emergencies
- Be able to recognize the need for specialty consultation and referrals
- Provide continuing comprehensive dental care for all children, including children with special health care needs
- Continue to monitor the oral health of children on an individualized schedule dependent on the child’s risk factors for disease
When I take my one year old to Atkins, Maestrello and Associates, what can I expect?
You can help prepare your child for their first dental appointment even before you step foot in our office. Talk, read, and play about going to the dentist. Books we recommend reading are:
[pullquote]You can also show your toddler pictures of our office on the computer.[/pullquote]
Once your family arrives at the office, your child will enjoy playing, reading or watching movies in our waiting area. Our experienced and friendly dental assistants will escort you and your child back to the dental chair. Every child reacts different to the dental chair. Some children love the idea of jumping onto the soft chair, others are shy and just want to stay with their caregiver, and others are upset even over the thought of seeing the dentist.
We are prepared and equipped to handle all these situations. If your child doesn’t want to sit in the chair alone, then we will ask the caregiver to hold the child in their lap while we count their teeth. It is common and age appropriate for toddlers to cry while the dentist is completing their exam. After the dentist is finished, we recommend praising your child for allowing the dentist to count their teeth. We will also reward them with stickers and balloons. Depending on the behavior of the child, we may perform a dental cleaning and fluoride treatment (varnish).
Special Needs Children
At Atkins, Maestrello and Associates, we are also prepared to see patients with special health care needs. We understand that health care for special needs patients is beyond that considered routine and requires specialized knowledge, increased awareness, attention, and accommodation. Our practice will help manage the child with special health care needs by using known preventive and restorative techniques.
We hope that this information will help your family with your first trip to the dentist. Remember that baby teeth are important for many reasons such as chewing, speaking, jaw development, self-esteem, and guiding eruption of the permanent teeth. So don’t forget to baby those baby teeth!
(Photo Credit: bkweaver on Flickr)