The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child’s first visit to the dentist should be by age one or within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, whichever comes first. It’s important for a child to develop a dental home as early as possible. There are many important reasons for the dental home concept:
Primarily, we like to sit down with the parent and have an in depth discussion about oral health and disease prevention including oral hygiene, diet counseling, oral habits, fluoride, dental trauma, and dental growth and development.
We also want to do a comprehensive exam to ensure your child’s oral cavity is healthy and free of any infections, congenital anomalies or other defects/pathology. Research as shown that children seen by a dentist routinely at a very young age are at a greatly reduced risk for developing dental decay. Also, if we are able to identify decay at the very beginning of its formation we can discuss ways of preventing it from progressing so we may never have to treat it. As Benjamin Franklin once penned, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Lastly, we like to see children on a routine basis from a very young age to develop a positive, healthy, and trusting relationship with them. Children who visit the dentist on a routine basis are much more likely to cooperate for an exam and radiographs by age 3 than those who do not.
The first appointment will begin with a comprehensive interview. During the interview, the dental assistant will provide you with important information regarding your child and his or her oral health. Afterwards, the dentist will come in to answer any questions you may have and reiterate any major points. Once the discussion is over, we finish the appointment in what is called the “knee to knee” position. The child is laid down on a soft cushion, which is placed on top of the laps of the parent and dentist as they face each other. The head is pointed towards the dentist and the legs will go around the parent’s waist as the parent holds the child’s hands comfortably. The dentist will perform an examination and toothbrush cleaning, followed by a fluoride application.
Although nothing is hurting the child, expect most small children to fuss during this part, as they are unable to fully comprehend the events. Crying is considered normal. We will be constantly talking to child to encourage them, and the parent is welcome to join in with their own positive comments. Afterwards, the children are given a goody bag with stickers and prizes and the appointment ends on a positive note. Some children do very well on their first visit, and others will begin to cooperate more after one or two visits. The dentist will then go over any significant observations made during the exam, and the parent can follow-up with any additional questions they may have for the dentist.