Across the globe, the recommended age for a child's first dental visit is 1 year, or within 6 months of eruption of the first tooth. While this is what almost all dental associations prescribe and advocate, not many parents follow this. The most common reason being 'Milk teeth will fall off anyhow, what's the point getting them checked?'
Why First Dental Visits Important
In the last decade, the number of 5 year olds with dental caries is on the rise (one study conducted by Toronto Public Health placed it at 11.6% in 2005-2006) With increased reliance on processed foods and dietary supplements, children are at a higher risk for tooth decay than before. Even though they fall off, milk teeth stay in a child's mouth till the age of 12, and an infected milk tooth can adversely affect overall oral health as well the permanent teeth which are yet to erupt. A visit to the dentist at age 1, will help parents -
1) Identify and tackle any decay early on, if it exists
2) Learn how to best care for their infant's mouth (how to clean their mouth)
3) Understand the impact dietary habits and other habits (such as thumb sucking) have on a child's teeth and oral health.
4) Discuss things like use of fluorides and how best to prevent decay.
Get yourself Ready First
While it is essential to prepare a child for his first dental visit, it is equally essential to prepare parents. As adults we are biased towards dental treatment because of previous experiences. It is imperative that parents do not transfer their fear to children. Parents need to be relaxed when they take their child to a dentist. Infants aren't seated in the dental chair alone, they are made to sit in their parents' laps and examined. This makes it even more important for parents to be calm, so that the child can be calm as well. Before going to a clinic, it is advisable for parents to think about the questions they would like answered, and go prepared. At the first visit, your dentist will spend quite some time discussing about the child's general health, history and things that are linked to oral health. These include- habits such as thumb/finger sucking, teething, dietary habits, method of cleaning, etc. It helps to have another adult accompany you for the visit.
Now, get the Kid Prepared
A child's first dental visit can be stressful, for both parents and the child. The environment is new, as are the people. Children can easily get cranky in such situations. Carry your child's favorite toy or blanket or teething item to keep him occupied. Also, dress him up in comfortable clothes, carry an extra diaper and a snack for your child. These seem like small things, but help the child identify the dental office as a safe comfortable place because of the familiarity. A successful first visit to the dentist prepares the child for a life free form the fear of dentists.
Maintenance plays an enormous role when it comes to any kind of machine, and as has been taught to us in science class, our body is a machine. Cleaning and taking care of your teeth is something you must practice every single day at home, but that does not make your teeth one-hundred-percent resistant to wear-and-tear. What might help, though, is a periodical appointment with your dentist who will take a good look inside your mouth and tell you if everything is A-Okay. Therefore, it is highly necessary that you get your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist, because your toothbrush will not keep them entirely healthy.
But the question is, how frequently should one schedule these appointments in order to ensure healthy gums and hygienic oral care?
At least once a year.
And that is the minimum requirement. Ask any dentist, and he or she will give you the same advice: A routine examination of your mouth will prevent the occurrence of infections and diseases, and keep oral problems in general at bay. However, this number changes if you suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, in which case you should see your dentist more often.
This applies even if you are a smoker. Smoking can permanently stain your teeth and lead to other tooth and gum problems. If you do not wish to or intend to beat the habit anytime soon, then you should plan more frequent visits to the dentist and get a full cleaning done so that no stains are formed.
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