When is it time for a child’s first dental visit?
According to the Canadian Dental Association, a child’s first dental visit should be before their first birthday or 6 months after the eruption of their first tooth. In situations of specific concern, an appointment can be made sooner. This first appointment is mainly designed to gather important health information about the child, and to educate and encourage parents to teach good dental habits at home. The dental team will start tooth decay prevention as soon as possible by providing parents or guardians with preventive tools such as nutritional counselling, brushing, flossing techniques, and establishing an appropriate frequency of visits and need for fluoride treatment in the future. By starting these preventative measures sooner, it allows the parents to maintain a good oral hygiene habit for the child and hopefully avoid invasive treatment in the future. Prevention of tooth decay works well if practices are implemented early in a child’s life.
What will the dentist do?
Understanding what to look for and how to help a child avoid dental complications is just the start. Making an early dental visit will allow the dentist to identify initial problems such as proper growth of the jaws and teeth, oral habits like thumb sucking, as well as early onset dental decay. The dentist will also use information such as the child’s medical history, the medical and genetic history of the parents, as well as any pregnancy, pre-birth, and post-birth complications to establish necessary dental care. As well, they will examine the child’s early diet and oral habits to determine the child’s dental future. The dentist will also perform the first dental examination of gum pads and teeth. They will look for any positional deformities of the jaw or presence of benign white bumps on gums or the palate, such as Epstein Pearls or Bohn’s nodules. As well, they will evaluate the severity of tongue-tie (Ankyloglossia), to determine whether this will interfere with the child’s breastfeeding.
The first appointment of a child in the office will look differently for different age groups. There is less time spent on an examination for children ages 6-12 months, than there is of an older child of 2-3 years of age. The extent of these appointments also depend greatly on the behaviour and degree of cooperation of the child. The first set of radiographs will be prescribed when the dentist can no longer examine surfaces between the teeth directly. The early dental appointments are especially important to check for some newly discovered dental anomalies, such as MIM (Molar-Incisor Malformation), which is related to some brain systemic diseases at the age of 1-2 years, that will require dentists to formulate a wider-ranging treatment plan.
What can you do?
After the initial visit you can take home the knowledge and tools the dental team provided and demonstrated during your visit. With any dental tips and tricks offered, the dental team will make sure that you have an understanding and comfort in understanding how to help your child maintain great oral hygiene and habits that they will carry on for the rest of their life.
As well, remember that dental anxiety can be transferred from a parent to a child either through words or body language. If you as a parent have dental anxiety, you should let this fact to be known to your dental staff, and they will help in reducing the anxiety transfer to your child.