Your child won’t keep his or her first teeth forever, but that doesn’t mean those tiny pearly whites don’t need conscientious care. Maintaining your child’s dental health now will provide health benefits well into adulthood.
We have decades of experience introducing children to happy, healthful, positive dental care. We have learned, with almost no exceptions, that if a child can start with low-pressure routine visits like cleanings and check ups and progress at his or her own speed and comfort level, things go very well.
First Visit Infant Exam (0 to 1 year)
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you bring your child in to see us by his or her first birthday, or upon the appearance of his or her first tooth. Though this may sound early, the main purpose is for us to answer any questions you might have, provide you with tips and techniques for proper pediatric oral hygiene, and offer encouragement. We also, of course, examine your child’s mouth and teeth!
Toddler Wellness Visits (1 to 3 years)
Although your child’s teeth are still new and continue to come in at this stage, there are a number of forms of tooth decay that can affect babies and small children. In the presence of certain risk factors, Early Childhood Caries (tooth decay) can develop rapidly, progressing from the hard, outer enamel layer of a tooth into the softer, inner dentin in six months or less.
Your visit will start with a Caries Risk Assessment to see whether your child’s teeth have or are showing early signs of cavities. Our team will also provide you with oral hygiene instructions and guidance regarding diet, nutrition and other oral habits. The right nutrition and a simple fluoride treatment may be a sufficient alternative to a filling or other restoration.
At this stage, children often do better in your lap than in the dental chair. We therefore most often use the “knee-to-knee” exam method, which simply means your toddler will sit on your lap while we check his/her teeth.
School-Age Children, 4 to 10 Years of Age
As you might imagine, dental visits play a crucial role in developing health-promoting behaviors and habits as kids change through adolescence. Permanent teeth usually start coming in between the ages of 6 and 7 and it is critical that good habits are established in order to keep these teeth healthy for the rest of your child’s life! In addition, usually by around age 8 children have enough dexterity to start brushing their teeth on their own. One of our roles is to help them establish proper brushing and flossing techniques in order for them to be independent. More empowerment for them, more freedom for you!
Between the ages of 7 to 9 we also like to recommend an orthodontic evaluation, during which the orthodontist will evaluate your child’s arch form and jaw growth. This may seem early, but in some cases early intervention (if needed), prevents the need for jaw surgery down the road.
At this age, we encourage you to let your child visit the chair alone. This independence allows children to focus on instructions given by our dental team and feel in charge.
Pre-teen and Teenage Years, 11 years and older
Busy schedules make it a challenge to visit the dentist. However, it’s just as important, if not more so, to brush, floss and maintain regular dental appointments at this age. Teens actually have a higher rate of cavities due to frequent snacking, busy schedules, and less attention to oral hygiene, and most already have all of their permanent teeth – teeth that need to last a lifetime!
If you have older children, please feel free to let your little one observe the elders’ check up and cleaning appointments before coming in themselves. We seldom see a little one who isn’t eager to show his or her big brothers and sisters that he or she can do it too!
If you as the parent feel the need to prepare your child, we encourage you to use gentler words so as to not unnecessarily scare your child. We use descriptions like “spraying the sleepy juice”.
If your child has trouble sitting still, don’t worry. We understand that attention spans can be short and little children are busy and active. We thus schedule only short appointments. It also doesn’t bother us in the least to give little breaks for them to get their wiggles out. Also, when it is safe, we are really good at working with a moving target!
We ask you to be somewhat reticent in offering comfort or direction to your child if you are in the room. Allow us the opportunity to respond. That way, we can establish and maintain rapport with your child.