Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What to Expect at your Child’s 1st Dental Visit by Age One

By: Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP

There is a new push for preventive dental care for very young children to achieve the “1st dental visit by the 1st Birthday”! The current recommendation, supported by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is for parents to take their child to see a dentist by their first birthday or with the eruption of their first tooth, whichever comes first. Why would parents want to do this and what happens during the first dental visit?
Good oral health is essential to overall good health, that’s why! Oral health is more than a beautiful smile. Children’s physical and emotional well-being is linked to their oral health; their growth and development, ability to socialize, enjoy life, chew, speak, and success in school is directly affected by their oral health. Prevention is the most sensible approach to oral health because the consequences of untreated dental disease in young children are pain and suffering, costly dental treatments, emergency room visits, general anesthesia, hospitalizations, and serious health complications.

Baby teeth are important! Most babies get their first teeth between 5-12 months of age, so it’s important to understand how to keep their teeth healthy from the start. The health of baby teeth can affect the health of adult teeth because cavities are infectious and can spread from tooth to tooth. The good news is that dental disease is almost 100% preventable in young children when they see the dentist and dental hygienist by age one.

During the Age One dental visit, children should receive a brief examination to check the mouth, usually lasting less than 5 minutes. A helpful position for examining a young child is called the “knee-to-knee” position, allowing the dentist to see inside the child’s mouth while the parent calms the child (see photo above). During the “knee-to-knee” examination, a tooth cleaning (usually done with a child-sized toothbrush and toothpaste), a quick fluoride varnish application, and discussion about how to contact the office if parents have questions or needs.  Also, parents should receive thorough education about creating good life-long oral health habits, such as techniques for brushing their child’s teeth (supervised until the child is 7-8 years old), encouraging the use of fluoridated toothpaste and drinking water, and flossing. There should be discussion with the parents about daily habits and nutrition, such as prevention of early childhood cavities by avoiding certain feeding patterns (e.g. avoid “grazing” on sippy-cups with juice), and a review of pacifier use and thumb sucking.  Information about trauma/injury prevention, appropriate ways of dealing with “teething”, and tooth eruption information should be provided to parents.

Parents should be knowledgeable and empowered to give the gift of life-long preventive dental care for their children by making the “1st Visit by 1st Birthday”!



About the Author: Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP, CPNP-PC, is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She has 20 years of experience in public health nursing, maternal and child health, family and community health promotion and has extensive health expertise in oral health, childhood obesity prevention and child nutrition. Click here to learn more about Amy.

34 comments :

  1. Oh my gosh, I seriously had no idea! My dentist told me to wait until Mia is 3 to take her in! Guess we will be taking her in for her 2nd birthday instead... happy birthday, baby girl! ha ha

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    1. :) yup! Latest recommendations! Good luck at the dentist!

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  2. It's all about the dentist and their demeanor. We were fortunate to have a great one - the girls have never been afraid to go back!

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    1. I am glad that you found a great dentist!! It makes the visit so much better!

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  3. We love our dentist too! The kids have no trouble at all going (20 months & 6 years old)

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    1. Glad to hear that! And thumbs up on taking your 20 month old!!

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  4. I still have to find the right dentist. I guess she'll have her first visit by age 2

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    1. That's ok! Finding the right dentist is soooooo important.

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  5. I wish I'd seen this post before our kids first visit. The knee to knee was something I did not know about until I got there. These are great tips. Ours are four years old now and we go regularly for check-ups and cleanings.

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    1. So they did the knee to knee at your appointment? Or was it just an option?

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    2. They did knee to knee because it was easier at that age than having them in the dental chair. Our pediatric dentist is also their uncle, so that helped them feel comfortable. Luckily, they also did well with the dental hygienists.

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  6. Our pediatric dentist is pretty awesome, but my daughter still has serious anxiety about going there and letting them touch her mouth! I'm hoping it gets better with more experience.

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    1. Maybe play dentist with her at home. Let her be the dentist too :)

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  7. Good oral hygiene is important. My son is almost 15 and I still nag him about brushing his teeth, flossing, wearing his retainer, etc. (Precisely Mine)

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    1. That's good that you still get on him about brushing. It is SO important and I know the men in my life don't really understand why :)

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  8. This is so informative. I don't have kids yet but this will be so helpful one day.

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    1. I'm glad you liked it! Pin it for the future :)

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  9. Our doctor told us this. However, we didn't take my daughter until she was two. Parent fail, and she didn't open her mouth for anything. We took my son in on time though and he was happy to show his teeth. Thanks for all the great info!

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    1. I think the sooner they get used to it the easier it will become. However, each kid is different and we all know how that goes. Good for you for taking them at young ages :)

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  10. My poor little girl needed serious dental work at age 5 due to tooth rot for me being young, and ignorant, and letting her have her bottle to herself too young. Wish we had good info like this back when my kids were little! Great informative post!

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    1. The same thing happened to my brother and my mom said it was for the same reason. She also said she didn't know what she does now.

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  11. Our first visit to the dentist was simple. My little one didn't seem to mind.

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    1. That is awesome!!!! I'm really glad to hear your little one did a good job :)

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  12. Definitely super helpful information and great advice for any new parent! My dentist was a family friend, so that definitely helped with the being-terrified-of-going-to-the-dentist thing when I was little.

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    1. That's awesome that you already knew your dentist!!

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  13. I have 4 kids, I take my kids to a pediatric dentist. I had always read you should start taking kids after they get their first few teeth. I asked our pediatric dentist and he didn't recommend starting regular visits until age 2 unless I suspected an issue

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    1. Hi Angie! Taking your child at age one is a fairly new initiative under Pennsylvania Head Start Association and it is really taking off. The Healthy Smiles,Happy Children: A Dentist for Every Child initiative has enabled a team comprised of pediatric dentists, general dentists, dental hygienists, and nurses to train over 100 of their peers to see children under age one for an exam and preventive care so maybe your dentist just is not aware of it yet, which is totally fine! :)

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  14. My kids have a great dentist, but my oldest has some issues with his teeth. My gosh I wish insurance covered more.

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    1. That is always an issue and I bet it is why children don't go to the dentist earlier.

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  15. I haven't taken my son simply out of fear. My fear. He has sonsory processing disorder, so I need to find a dentist that caters to special needs.

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    1. I have heard of special dentists out there that help with issues like that. Good luck to you finding the perfect dentist.

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  16. Thanks for sharing, my little ones are definitely due for their dental visit.

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