Take Care of Your Child's Smile for Life
With a baby, everything is a first, and that includes the first adorable smile. To ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) recommends that your child's first trip to a dentist occurs six months after his or her first tooth erupts.
According to an article in the February 2006 issue of AGD Impact, the monthly newsmagazine of the AGD, this is the ideal time to visit, since it allows the dentist to examine the development of the child's mouth. Visiting sooner than later will also help identify any problems, such as baby bottle tooth decay or teething irritations.
Although pediatric dentists specialize in providing oral health care treatment for children, most children are treated by a general dentist, who is the primary dental care provider for patients of all ages and often has an established relationship with the entire family.
"Typically, the first baby tooth is lost between age 5 and 6, with children continuing to lose their baby teeth until age 12 or 13," says AGD spokesperson Cindy Bauer, DDS, MAGD. Many people are under the impression that, because these baby teeth will eventually fall out, there is no need to visit a dentist before that time.
Dr. Bauer explains, "It's important to fix decayed baby teeth so the surrounding teeth don't become infected. Cavities that are not fixed can lead to painful abscesses, early tooth loss, as well as the loss of spacing needed to be reserved for the incoming permanent teeth."
Parents can prepare themselves and their child for the first visit by asking the dentist about the procedures that will be performed and by bringing medical records. "Also, talk to your child about what to expect and build excitement, as well as understanding, about the upcoming visit," says Dr. Bauer.
At home, parents can clean an infant's gums with a clean, damp cloth, and teach older children brushing techniques. The best way to teach a child proper oral hygiene is to lead by good example, advises Dr. Bauer.
What may happen on the first visit?
· A gentle examination of the jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues
· A gentle cleaning, including polishing the teeth and removing any plaque, tartar build-up and stains
· Proper home cleaning will be demonstrated
· An assessment will be made of the need for fluoride
Updated: February 2007