Early dental care is important in establishing a healthy foundation for a child’s oral hygiene. Dr. Steven Rollins, D.M.D., owner of Summit Dental in Waterford, recommends that children see a dentist by their first birthday – or as soon as they cut their first teeth.
“If teeth are in the mouth, they can get cavities,” Rollins says. “If a child is 2,3 or even 4 years old and hasn’t seen the dentist, parents shouldn’t be ashamed, just bring them in as soon as possible.” Rollins says.
Taking a child to the dentist can cause anxiety for families. Here, Rollins offers tips and information on what to expect during a child’s first dentist visit.
Choose the best time of day
Schedule your child’s appointment for times of day that work best for the him or her. Rollins encourages parents to avoid meal and nap times.It’s also helpful if parents give their child a small snack and brush their teeth before the appointment.
Prepare the child (and paperwork) in advance
Before your child’s appointment, Rollins says parents should talk to their child about the dentist in a positive way. Parents can discuss how the dentist will look at the child’s teeth and how he helps to keep the teeth healthy. In addition, Rollins recommends utilizing videos on the American Dental Association website that explain what happens at the office in a light and fun way.
There is often new patient paperwork that will need to be completed before the child sees the dentist. Parents should attempt to finish the paperwork before the appointment, he says.
“I know from experiences with my own boys, kids can get bored quickly. The less paperwork that we can have parents doing in the office the quicker we can get to the exam,” Rollins says.
A meet-and-greet with the dentist
At a child’s first appointment, Rollins says his goal is to get them comfortable in the dental chair and hopefully get a good look in their mouth.
“We want to get the child familiar with the office, the staff and myself. We keep things light and fun. We don’t want to overwhelm them with anything,” Rollins says. “The first goal is to meet the patient and get a look inside their mouth. If we don’t clean anything, it’s OK.”
At Summit Dental, they get the child familiar with the sights, scents and sounds of the office.
The youngest patients, typically under the age of 3, sit in the chair with their mom or dad. Rollins performs what he calls a knee-to-knee exam. He has the child lay across the parent’s lap and examines them.
“The child is probably going to be wiggly and may even cry a little bit, but our team knows that and we are used to it. It’s really no big deal,” Rollins says. “Believe it or not, it actually helps us by allowing a good look at the teeth and everything else.”
For older children, Rollins has them sit in the dentist chair for the examination, but he encourages parents to join them in the exam room.
What dentists are looking for
Dentists are looking for any trauma and also want to ensure that teeth are growing in correctly.
“We want to make sure that everything is there and accounted for and there aren’t any abnormalities to be concerned about,” Rollins says. “We would then try to clean their teeth, but we wouldn’t put them in a situation that would make them uncomfortable.”
Beyond the dentist’s chair
Rollins and his staff demonstrate at home dental care and discuss how habits or diet can affect oral health.
“We explain how often to brush, what kind of toothpaste to use and give techniques on how to brush,” Rollins says.
To help keep your child’s teeth healthy, Rollins encourages parents to brush their child’s teeth until they are at least 5 years old.
For more information on Summit Dental, visit summitdentalgroup.com.