Category: Dr. Advocate's Insight, Kids Dentistry
According to the American Dental Association, (ADA) children should visit the dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth or by their first birthday. But, you may be wondering, why so early?
Visiting the dentist can be intimidating for kids. Cavities, commonly called “sugar bugs,” can damage unsuspecting teeth. Therefore, it’s essential to be proactive and protect your children’s teeth. In addition, healthy brushing habits and regular dental visits will decrease children’s chances of suffering from tooth decay and oral health problems. Lastly, this article will look at five different aspects of dental visits.Recommended Reading: Overcoming Obstacles at the Dentist
It’s vital to lay the solid groundwork before their first dental visit. Thankfully, many forms of media have done an excellent job portraying the dentist positively. For example, many books provide a great introduction to what takes place at the dental office. Parents can also supplement this learning by reminding the child that the dentist is a friend and wants to keep their teeth clean and healthy.
Stay positive and keep the conversation fun as you introduce these new experiences to your children.
Healthy teeth begin with healthy eating habits. Teeth are constantly under acid attacks after sugary foods and drinks contact the surface of the teeth. Repeated acid attacks can cause tooth decay, pain, and possibly infection. In addition, dental plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth when oral hygiene is not maintained.
Bacteria use sugar to produce acid that attacks the tooth’s enamel surface. To help prevent tooth decay, ensure your child eats a healthy diet and saves sweets for mealtime to avoid repeated acid attacks.
Before your visit, you may be asked to complete relevant medical and dental questionnaires online. Take advantage of this so you’re not overwhelmed on the day of your appointment. Also, don’t be alarmed if your child becomes antsy or concerned upon arrival. Children commonly receive x-rays beginning at age three or the dentist’s discretion.
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Sitting in the dental chair alone can be intimidating for many children. If this is the case, the parent can sit first, followed by the child on their lap. This seating arrangement allows the child to rest on you while the chair leans back. Parents can also sit on the edge of the chair while the child sits on their lap, facing them with legs wrapped around their waist because it allows the child to easily lay back on the dentist’s knees for better visualization.
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The dentist may palpate under the jaw, behind the ears, and around the neck to look for abnormalities. Below are common areas of the mouth that the dentist will examine.
Children may feel uncomfortable during this stage and begin to cry. Crying is an excellent way for dentists to visualize their teeth quickly.
Teeth evaluation consists of visual, tactile, and radiographic assessment, which allows the clinician to diagnose any treatment.
Many dentists use magnification loupes up to 3.5x to better visualize the teeth and surrounding gum tissue within the oral cavity. Next, the dentist may use a dental instrument (explorer) to screen for cavities by gently inserting it into suspecting areas. If the explorer sticks, a cavity may be present. Learn more about cavities and how they are treated in the article below.
Related: Read more about Cavities
If the child cooperates, the dentist may gently use a scaling instrument to remove plaque and calculus. Next, the dentist or dental assistant will polish the child’s teeth to be smooth and shiny. If desired, the dentist will floss teeth and apply fluoride. Fluoride is vital because it remineralizes weakened enamel and prevents tooth decay.
The most common area for plaque to localize is the inside of the lower molars and the outside of the upper molars.
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The dentist will discuss a pediatric dentist referral if the child requires treatment that the general dentist is not comfortable managing. Although this can be frustrating, the general dentist will always keep the child’s best interest.
A pediatric dentist can provide an exceptional experience for the child and minimize undesirable outcomes and trauma.
Related: Learn more about Pediatric Dentistry
Avoid using words such as “sharp,” “poke,” “pain,” and “hurt” when discussing the dentist. Instead, try introducing phrases such as “Mr. Thirsty” for the saliva suction and “Mr. Bumpy” for the dental drill. Also, have your child practice opening and closing their mouth on command.
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Continue to encourage them during this process, and don’t be hard on them if things don’t go as planned. Don’t be alarmed if your child cannot tolerate any aspect of their dental visit. The experience can sometimes be overwhelming. Ultimately, the goal of the first visit is to screen for tooth decay, introduce the child to the dental office and cultivate a positive environment so they’re willing to return in the future.
The more you know, the more healthy habits you can develop, saving you and your family from avoidable and potentially expensive dental procedures. Talk to your dental professional for more suggestions on improving oral health and check back for more blog posts and relevant information. Please share this site and let us know what else you’d like to know!