Pediatric dentistry can be a bit of a mystery, especially to first-time parents. With so few teeth in those first couple years, is a visit to the dentist really necessary?
Dr. Samantha Hollinger, D.M.D. of TRU Dentistry Austin, located on South Lamar, provides the insights parents need to know.
The ADA recommends the first dental visit by one-year-old. At TRU Dentistry, we see children as young as 6 months. Although it is not common, early teethers can get cavities before the age of 1, especially if they have a high sugar diet. In addition, early infant and childhood dental visits prepare the child to be a lifelong dental patient. A good and even “fun” experience in those initial visits establishes an anxiety-free experience to take into adulthood.
In the first visit, we will do a thorough screening for any developmental issues that could cause delays in tooth eruption. We look for signs of early childhood caries (decay), often known as “baby bottle rot”, which can be severe and painful for the child if left untreated. Pediatric dentists also look at the anatomy of the mouth and check for any issues that could interfere with their feeding or the development of the permanent teeth.
Children can be born with teeth or get them as late as 2 years old! Tooth development is mostly genetic, however late development can be a sign of other developmental or health issues which we want to catch as early as possible. A pediatric dentist can alert you to potential issues or answer any concerns you may have.
When a child is fighting the dentist, it can be dangerous for everyone. We always put safety first. The show-tell-do method works very well, but there are no guarantees with children. For those without a will to cooperate, we don’t push it and reschedule. Sometimes a different time of day or just being one month older can make a big difference. If they were scheduled for restorative work, we can try “laughing gas” or in extreme cases refer them for deeper sedation with a specialist so we can all be safe, and the child can get the care they need.
Brush your teeth together! Children often learn by watching or mimicking parents and older siblings. Spending that time together, playing a favorite song and using a tasty toothpaste can establish a child’s joy in caring for their teeth. You can also bring your children to your own dental checkups, which demonstrates the importance and ease of a dental visit.
I think it’s important to find a pediatric dentist your child will enjoy seeing. Those first visits are critical for setting kids up to be lifelong dental patients. There is a whole market of products we can use to make dental visits fun for kids. At TRU Dentistry, we have polishing tools that look like animals, kid’s cartoons, and prizes! Also, keep in mind, kids will feed off their parents’ energy, so if the parent is comfortable with the dentist it goes a long way.