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Your Child's First Dental Visit

Our office, as well as The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend establishing a “dental home” by the child’s first birthday.

Although this may seem surprisingly early, the incidence of infant and toddler tooth decay has been rising in recent years.  Tooth decay and early cavities can be exceptionally painful if they are not attended to immediately, and can also set the scene for poor oral health in later childhood.

This “well baby check” for the teeth can establish a dental home and helps ensure that parents learn the tools they'll need to help their children remain cavity-free.

You can make the first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive. Your child should be informed of the visit and told that the dentist and their staff will explain all procedures and answer any questions. The less ‘to-do’ concerning the visit, the better.

There are several things parents can do to make the first visit enjoyable.  Some helpful tips are:

  • Take another adult along for the visit – Sometimes infants become fussy when having their mouths examined.  Having another adult along to soothe them allows the parent to ask questions and to attend to any advice the dentist may have.
  • Leave other children at home – Other children can distract the parent and cause the infant to fuss.  Leaving other children at home (when possible) makes the first visit less stressful for all concerned.
  • Avoid threatening language – It is best if you refrain from using words around your child that might cause unnecessary fear, such as "needle", "shot", "pull", "drill" or "hurt" or “pain”. Pediatric dentists and staff are trained to avoid using threatening words.  We use words that convey the same message, but are pleasant and non-frightening to the child.
  • Provide positive explanations – It is important to explain the purposes of the dental visit in a positive way.  Explaining that the dentist “helps to keep teeth healthy” is far better than explaining that the dentist “is checking for tooth decay, and may have to drill the tooth if decay is found.”
  • Explain what will happen – Anxiety can be vastly reduced if the child knows what to expect. Age-appropriate books about visiting the dentist can be very helpful in making the visit seem fun.

Here is a list of parent and dentist-approved books:

  • The Berenstein Bears Visit the Dentist – by Stan and Jan Berenstein.
  • Show Me Your Smile: A Visit to the Dentist – Part of the “Dora the Explorer”  Series.
  • Going to the Dentist – by Anne Civardi.
  • Elmo Visits the Dentist – Part of the “Sesame Street” Series.

We invite you to stay with your child during the initial examination.

During future appointments, we suggest you allow your child to accompany our staff through the dental experience. We can usually establish a closer rapport with your child when you are not present. Our purpose is to gain your child's confidence and overcome apprehension. However, if you choose, you are more than welcome to accompany your child to the treatment room as a “silent observer”. For the safety of all patients, other children who are not being treated should remain in the reception room, and only one adult should accompany your child in the clinical areas.

What will happen during the first visit?

There are several goals for the first dental visit.  First, Dr. Fugate and your child need to get properly acquainted.  Second, she will monitor tooth and jaw development to get an idea of the child’s overall health history.  Third, Dr. Fugate will evaluate the health of the existing teeth and gums.  Finally, the dentist aims to answer questions and advise parents on how to implement a good oral care regimen.

The following sequence of events is typical of an initial “well baby checkup”:

  1. Our staff will greet the child and parents.
  2. The infant/family health history will be reviewed (this may include questionnaires).
  3. Dr. Fugate will address parental questions and concerns.
  4. More questions will be asked, generally pertaining to the child’s oral habits, pacifier use, general development, tooth alignment, tooth development, and diet.
  5. Dr. Fugate will provide advice on good oral care, how to prevent oral injury, fluoride intake, and “sippy cup” use.
  6. The infant’s teeth will be examined. Generally, the dentist and parent sit facing each other.
    The infant is positioned so that his or her head is cradled in the dentist’s lap.  This position allows the infant to look at the parent during the examination.
  7. Good brushing and flossing demonstrations will be provided.
  8. The state of the child’s oral health will be described in detail, and specific recommendations will be made.  Recommendations usually relate to oral habits, appropriate toothpastes and toothbrushes for the child, orthodontically correct pacifiers, and diet.
  9. We will detail which teeth may appear in the following months.
  10. Dr. Fugate will outline an appointment schedule and describe what will happen during the next appointment.

Dental Tips for Parents

Instilling proper oral health habits early in your child's life is the key to preventing tooth decay and gingivitis. Good dental hygiene routines should be started as early as your child's first teeth erupt and continued throughout life.

Below are a few easy dental tips for parents:

  • Parents should wipe their newborn's gums with a clean, damp cloth after each feeding to control the accumulation of plaque and to establish this ritual as part of the daily routine.
  • Parents should begin brushing their child's teeth as soon as they come in, with only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Ideally, flossing should begin when two adjacent teeth touch.
  • Children should visit the dentist no later than six months after the first tooth erupts, or before the child's first birthday.
  • Parents should not give an unattended or sleeping child a bottle with milk or juice. Instead, children should drink water to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
  • Dental sealants are an excellent way to prevent tooth decay in children. The dental sealant procedure takes only minutes, is painless, is less than half the cost of a filling and is virtually 100 percent effective at stopping decay.
  • If a child (or adult) has a permanent tooth knocked out of his/her mouth, follow these procedures: gently rinse (not scrub) the tooth off and place it in a cup of warm milk (salt water is the second best choice; plain water, the third best), call the dentist and bring the child and the soaking tooth in immediately for re-implantation and stabilization.

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