Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. In the case of children, they learn what they see and hear at home. Parents have the chance to ingrain all sorts of positive and healthy habits in their kids. The best way for parents to help their children develop a good oral care regimen is by practicing what they preach. So, as National Child Health Day approaches, here's what you need to know about childhood dental visits.
First Appointment Expectations
Determining when to make your child's first dental appointment can be a tad confusing given that the teething time frame is different for each little one. Some get them early while some are late bloomers. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends scheduling that first visit with a pediatric dentist by the time your child turns 1 and then every six months after.
Even if your child has only sprouted a handful of teeth by age 1, there's still plenty to do and discuss at that initial visit. The dentist can answer any of your questions or concerns. He or she may discuss your child's overall oral health like teething, bite alignment, sucking (be it a thumb or pacifier) and cavity risk.
The dentist will also want to take a peek inside your child's mouth. Given the young age, this isn't the standard tilted-back seat exam. Position your child on your lap and facing you. Tilt him back so that the dentist, seated directly across from you, can easily have a look in his mouth. This type of exam allows for the dentist to demonstrate how to clean your child's teeth properly and lets you practice as well. After the exam, discuss with the dentist when to schedule a follow-up and what the teething process will bring in the next handful of months.
Now that you'll be scheduling regular checkups for your child, it's important that he learns a visit to the dentist is more than a quick "open up and say ahhh." Sometimes actual procedures — besides the standard teeth cleaning — are necessary.
- X-rays for children. X-rays are an important tool each dentist uses to help patients stay healthy. An X-ray can show tooth positioning while it's still in the gum, detect the eruption path through the gum, identify bone diseases and provide an accurate tooth count. And they're safe, as the radiation exposure is minimal.
- Fluoride treatments. Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, which in turn lowers the risk for tooth decay. A dentist will need to apply fluoride in gel or foam form if your child has a higher-than-normal risk for tooth decay.
- Dental sealants. A dental sealant provides protection to your child's teeth from food and bacteria. The number of teeth to be sealed depends on how susceptible your child is to cavities. Talk to a dentist about the necessity and benefits of sealants.
- Underbite correction. An underbite results from the lower teeth overlapping the upper teeth. It can result in difficulty eating and speaking along with tooth decay. Two devices are available to correct the underbite: an upper jaw expander and a "reverse pull" face mask.
Being a parent is chock full of endless responsibilities. But don't fret! Simply leading by example can instill lifelong healthy habits in your children. That's important as ever to remember not only on National Child Health Day, but every day.