June 30, 2006
Contact PDA: (717) 234-5941
What to Expect at Your Child's First Dental Visit
Children should see their family dentist within six months of eruption of the first tooth. So why is the average age for a child's first dental visit three to five?
"Most parents are waiting too long for the first visit because many physicians and even dentists may not realize the importance of an early dental visit," said Dr. Richard Galeone, a Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) pediatric dentist from Lansdale.
The PDA reminds parents that a child's teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they begin to erupt. A dental visit can help to prevent problems such as early childhood caries (also known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries), gum disease, teething irritations and prolonged thumb-sucking.
"Some parents feel that it is cost effective to wait until the child is older," Dr. Galeone said. "In fact, studies show that children who visit the dentist prior to the age of one require 40 percent less dental expense during the first five years of life."
Many early visits are simply ice-breakers designed to familiarize your child with his or her dentist. It isn't uncommon for a child to be frightened, uncomfortable or non-cooperative. Parents should be prepared to reschedule the visit if necessary.
Appointments for children should always be scheduled earlier in the day, when your child is alert and fresh. Short, consecutive visits build the child's trust in the dentist and the office. For children younger than two years of age a parent may have to sit in the dental chair and hold the child during the examination. Also, parents may be asked to wait in the reception area so that a relationship can be built between a child and the dentist.
If a child is agreeable, the first session can last between 15-30 minutes and may include examination of the teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues to monitor growth and development; observation of any problem areas; a gentle cleaning including polishing and removing of plaque, tartar build-up and stains; X-rays; a demonstration of proper home cleaning; and an assessment of the need for fluoride.
If your child has special needs, care from a pediatric dentist should be considered. Ask your dentist or your child's doctor what he or she recommends. A pediatric dentist has at least two additional years of training beyond dental school. The additional training focuses on management and treatment of a child's developing teeth, child behavior and physical growth and development.
Although either type of dentist is capable of addressing your child's oral health care needs, a pediatric dentist, his or her staff, and even the office decor are all geared to care for children and to put them at ease.View more information about what to expect at your child's first dental visit.
About the Pennsylvania Dental
Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA’s mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. Learn more about PDA.