I’ll be honest: Before I had Nova, I didn’t really know pediatric dentists even existed.
Of course, I knew that I’d take her to a different doctor than the one I’d go to - I’d take her to a pediatrician, a doctor who specializes in the medical care of infants, children and adolescents. But I didn’t realize that dentists can specialize in treating children as well!
When I first took Nova to see the pediatric dentist 1.5 years ago, she had a great experience and it was so clear to me why choosing a pediatric dentist for her was absolutely necessary. Here’s a quick rundown of why I’d recommend taking your child to a pediatric dentist, and what you and your child can expect from each visit.
Why a Pediatric Dentist?
Just like how pediatricians specialize in the treatment of infants, children and adolescents, pediatric dentists are uniquely qualified to do the same. They have the experience and qualifications to care for a child’s teeth, gums, and mouth during every developmental stage of childhood.
In order to be a pediatric dentist, a dentist needs to complete extra training. Any pediatric dentist will have completed at least four years of dental school, and two to three additional years of residency training in pediatric dentistry. That means they’re not only used to children’s teeth, but also children in general - they know how to cater the dentist visit towards kids, how to calm them down if they’re scared, how to make them feel more comfortable. They also use specially designed equipment in their offices that are created and decorated with children in mind.
What do Pediatric Dentists Provide?
One of the most crucial things our pediatric dentist emphasized during Nova’s visit was oral health education. She not only helped Nova know the importance of keeping her mouth clean and healthy, but she also taught me what I needed to do to help Nova establish good habits early on. As she was cleaning Nova’s mouth, she told her all about the importance of brushing and flossing his teeth. Then, she also asked me about what I currently do to promote good brushing habits, and reminded me to make sure Nova brushed her teeth twice a day and flossed each day as well. She also reminded me to keep setting a good example with my own habits.
Our pediatric dentist also provides preventive treatments (such as teeth cleaning and fluoride treatments), cavity fillings, and other usual services any dentist is qualified to render, on both baby teeth and secondary teeth.
When Should I Take my Child for the First Time? How Often After That?
To prevent early dental problems, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your child to see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday.
They also recommend that your child see a pediatric dentist every six months to prevent cavities and other dental problems. However, you should ask your pediatric dentist when and how often your child should visit, based on their personal oral health.
What’s Each Visit Like?
Your child’s first dental visit will usually be short, and involves very little (if any) treatment. The first visit gives your child the chance to meet the dentist in a friendly, casual way. It’s an opportunity for the dentist to build a relationship with the child. A good pediatric dentist will explain each step of the checkup to your child, show him the tools that will be used, and let him sit on his parent’s lap or stop any procedure should he get nervous.
During their first examination, the dentist will check all of your child’s teeth for decay, examine your child’s bite, and look for any potential problems with your child’s mouth. He or she will clean the existing teeth (which may be very few!), then he or she will also educate parents (and your child!) about oral health care basics and answer any questions.
Future visits are usually similar - just a simple cleaning and check-up to see if any further treatment will be necessary, not unlike the sort of dental visits you’re probably used to. Except for one key difference - your child will get to take home a prize!
How Can I Prepare my Child?
For toddlers, the first dental visit can be a scary thought. Unfamiliar faces, strange instruments, loud noises, and a new place can be enough to make any little one anxious. However, there are a number of things you can do to make that first visit a positive experience for your child.
After choosing a pediatric dentist, consider making an appointment to tour the office with your child to help him or her become familiar with it. We arrived earlier for Nova’s first visit appointment just to spend a little more time in the waiting room and meet with the dentist before the actual appointment. Nova is a slow warming kid, this definitely helped her feel more comfortable.
Before the first dental visit, talk to your child about what’s going to happen. Practice brushing with your child beforehand, so he or she will be used to having a toothbrush in his or her mouth. (Even if there’s only a couple teeth in it!) Emphasize that once the visit is over, your child will be able to pick out a special prize. Prizes are a great way to help your child think the dentist’s office is a fun place!
Dental hygiene is so important - the habits your little one will begin to develop at a tender age will help them throughout their life. Pediatric dentists are specifically qualified to help your child feel comfortable in the dentist’s office and develop good habits.
What was your little one’s first dental visit like? What did you do to help prepare your child? Let us know in the comments!