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From the Dentist's mouth

Kent here…I know I'm not 'mommy' material, but I thought I might chime in on this one. Great questions! I'll start with the easy ones and work my way up.

Q: When should my child see a dentist for the 1st time?

A: The answer you will get from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists is 1-year or around the time of the first tooth, whichever comes first. My humble opinion is that is too early for most children. Here's why. First, congenital dental abnormalities (the kind you would want to try to catch at such an appointment) are extremely rare. The most common ones are associated with cleft palate and lip and would have been caught already. Second, pediatricians are doing a far better job these days at making parents aware of their young child's few, but extremely important dental needs. Most parents know better than to send their child to bed with a bottle/sippy cup, and if you do, it is should have nothing but water in it. If you put your child to bed with free access to liquid sugar in any variety, the bacteria that cause tooth decay will run rampant. (This includes cow's milk, breast milk and any other creature's milk you want to give the kid) Before your child has teeth, clean the gums regularly with a clean, moist cloth. After the first tooth appears (anywhere from 4-14 months is normal) use a small toothbrush. Toothpaste is optional but make sure it is fluoride-free until your child is old enough to spit it out. Pea-size is plenty.

So my answer: 3 years old…unless there is trauma to the mouth or teeth or there are specific concerns or questions you have. If you came to see me before then, most of the exam would be spent discussing home care and diet. I don't even use the normal chair. The child stays on mom's lap during the exam.

Q: How do I prepare my child for his/her first dental visit?

A: I realize that many people dread the dental office. Many people's anxiety stem from a negative experience in the past mingled with legendary tales of someone else's horror story. For the large part, dentists trained in the last two decades are going to be a bit more sensitive to this and you may find that things at the dentist are not as scary as they were "back in the day." Dental anxiety and the fear of the unknown, however, are two very different things. Before their first visit, children do NOT have dental anxiety, they fear the unknown. (Be careful not to project any anxiety on your child by talking negatively about yours or anyone else's visits.) Cassi is exactly right. The more you tell them what to expect, the easier this appointment will be.

Here's what to expect at your first visit (in my office anyway): A special chair that you get to ride up and down in, sunglasses (the light is too bright for kids' eyes), tooth counting, searching for sugar bugs, special flavored toothpaste with a special brush that tickles your teeth (a little, not too much), and maybe some special pictures of their teeth, but NO scraping. Lots of education at these early visits. As with anything pertaining to your health, the more questions you ask, the better.

Q: What do I look for in selecting a dentist for my child?

A: If you can find a Dr. Archibald in your area, he's a pretty safe bet. :) If one of those is not available, look for "Family Dentistry" in the yellow pages or on the web. Pediatric dentists have specialized training in treating kids and usually have very child friendly offices with lots of toys. But you don't have to see a pediatric dentist. General dentists have a great deal of training in treating children. But not all general dentist offices see kids, so it's a good idea to call and ask. Ask around at play groups and storytime…there is bound to be some great dentists in your area.


Cassi said...

Wow that was great! So much good info! THANKS!!!!

Bridget said...

Right before we left MN, we ventured for Rachel's first dental visit and she did a GREAT job! Even though the office in the Health Partners Como clinic isn't a pediatric dentist, the dentist we saw was very calm with her and explained everything in a way she could understand. Sadly, she already had a very small cavity and even though she is really young for a filling (they said we could wait until next year) they did it without any problems. Even though it made me squirmish, the drill was named the "whistler" and she thought it was hilarious a cotton ball went in between her teeth (a pillow). They also let me sit in the seat and have her on my lap, which was a definite lifesaver. But, we are trying to do a more thorough job of brushing, so hopefully the "whistler" will be silent for a while!

Anonymous said...

Please have a look at DentiSign, a simple hand signal system that enables communication between patient and dentist.

All comments welcome.