A child should be taken to the dentist for their first appointment when they are around one year of age. This allows for the establishment of a dental provider for the child to become comfortable with. It also initiates and encourages the onset of good and regular oral hygiene.
The most important reason for seeking an appointment early in the child’s life is to establish good, preventative oral care. Cavities, also known as caries, can begin very early in life, as soon as breast milk is discontinued. Dental caries are defined as decay of a tooth as a result of bacterial colonization. Untreated dental caries can lead to pain, tooth decay, tooth loss and infection. For this reason, evaluation by a dentist and initiation of a healthy oral hygiene regimen is necessary.
Aside from simply being seen by a pediatric dentist, choosing the appropriate dentist is also important. By finding a good and reputable dentist, as well as one that is sensitive to the needs of a child, will encourage the child to accept the dental hygiene recommendations. Furthermore, establishing a comfortable and trusting relationship between the child and the dentist will promote easy visits in the future, so that taking the child to the dentist will be a pleasant experience.
The first dental visit typically involves a thorough examination of the gums and incoming teeth, a gentle cleaning, and a fluoride treatment. At the end of the visit, the parents will then be instructed on how to promote good dental hygiene at home, and schedule the next appropriate follow up visit.
In order to make the child feel comfortable at their first visit, as well as subsequent visits, most pediatric dental offices attempt to create a warm and welcoming environment. Most good offices shy away from any type of child restraint system, such as the use of papoose boards or intimidation.
Furthermore, most offices will encourage the parents to be present throughout the length of the visit, allowing for encouragement, support, and increased comfort level. Finally, most offices create a child friendly environment by decorating the office with bright and inviting colors and providing the children with toys and books to keep them stimulated and happy while waiting for their appointment.
Finding a good pediatric dentist and initiating a long lasting relationship is very important to the growth and development of all children. Dental caries have been associated later in life with heart disease and other co-morbid conditions.
By establishing a good and trusting relationship with a pediatric dentist early in life, you ensure that the child will receive adequate and appropriate dental cleaning and treatment as needed, as well as reinforce healthy dental hygiene behaviors for implementation at home.