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.
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