When is the right time to take my kid to the dentist?

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Posted on August 22, 2014
When is the right time to take my child to the dentist?

A lot of health issues are controversial, but this one isn’t. The right time to take your child to the first dental appointment is 12months. Since 2003 when the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their policy paper on oral health, both your pediatrician and pediatric dentist are advocating parents start early to help prevent dental problems.

Does twelve months seem too early? Maybe you are thinking of it in terms of traditional dentistry. If you think of it in terms of a well baby exam, it may make more sense. By that I mean most children will visit their pediatrician or physician five to seven times by the age of two. Your physician is exams your child during rapid growth and change, but he or she is also anticipating the changes you will see and counseling you on how to raise your child in a healthy manner. The term for this care is anticipatory guidance, and it is so universally accepted that even insurance companies pay for it.

The reality is, physicians get little or no formal training on dental anatomy, development or pathology. That is why the AAP has recommended a child have a DENTAL HOME by age one, like they have a medical home. The dental home concept puts you in touch with a qualified dentist so he or she may counsel you on your child’s oral development as well and be there in case of dental emergencies. With up to 7% of head injuries involving the teeth, you don’t want to be searching the phone book while your child is bleeding.

What is accomplished in that well baby dental check? Offices are different, but the literature is becoming more standardized. In my office this complimentary exam through 18 months consists fo the following:

1) Exam of oral anatomy: What is normal versus abnormal for babies and toddlers.

2) Oral Habit strategies: When is the best time to stop the thumb or pacifier and how do you go about that?

3) Tooth brushing and Fluoride use: When and how do we brush the teeth of babies and toddlers and how to we control toothpaste swallowing to prevent fluorosis?

4) Caries Risk Assessment: Cavities are an infectious disease and are on the rise. How prone to cavities is your infant given their anatomy, social structure and family history? Now is the time to address these issues to maximize prevention strategies for your child.

5) Anticipating the future: We answer your questions discuss behavior strategies for that first cleaning appointment about 2.5-3yrs old.

Oral health care is not rocket science, but cavities have become the most prevalent disease of childhood, five times more frequent than asthma. And cavities hurt. Get your child off to the right start by asking your pediatrician or family dentist to recommend a children’s dentist near you. And please let me know if you have any specific questions; I am here to help. Greg Evans