When Should My Child See a Pediatric Dentist?
As soon as your child gets their first tooth, you should schedule their first dental visit with a pediatric dentist.
National Children’s Dental Health Month
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. During this time, the American Dental Association (ADA) is raising awareness surrounding children’s dental health.
As soon as a child gets their first tooth, they should see a pediatric dentist.
Scheduling a child’s first dental visit early, sets the stage for optimal oral health and hygiene.
If you take care of your child’s teeth early-on, you can help prevent cavities, gum disease, and other tooth decay related issues.
It’s also important to recognize that oral health is impacted by a child’s environment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children between the ages of 5-19 years old who come from low-income families, are twice as likely to get cavities as opposed to children from higher-income households.
If you come from a lower income household, it’s important you explore your pediatric dentist options and learn how you can use insurance to schedule your child’s first dental visit.
How to Schedule your Child’s First Dental Visit
Many parents are hesitant to take their children to the pediatric dentist, because they don’t think their insurance will cover it.
However, you’d be surprised to know many insurance providers do cover pediatric dentist appointments. You can even find a children’s dentist that takes medicaid through different websites such as ZocDoc.
Be sure to reach out to your specific insurance provider, to find a pediatric dentist that is covered by your insurance.
If you’re a pediatric dentist interested in bridging the gap between underrepresented patients with physicians, we encourage you to join the Connect2Heal network. Connect2Heal is focused on making medical treatment more accessible to traditionally underrepresented patients.
What to expect at the first visit with a Pediatric Dentist?
Pediatric dentists know how important it is to make your child feel comfortable during their first dental visit.
During your first visit, you could expect the staff to spend some time helping your child acclimate to the environment. Sometimes staff will give the child a toy or let them watch a short movie to make sure they feel comfortable in the new environment.
Once the child is acclimated, the appointment will begin.
Oftentimes, a hygienist will first clean the baby’s teeth. This includes:
- Showing you what you can do to help keep your child’s teeth clean
- Discussing the child’s diet and how that plays a role in oral health
- Recommending oral care products that will boost oral health
After the hygienist cleans the baby’s teeth, the dentist will then:
- Examine the child’s teeth closely
- Let you know if there are any concerns regarding gum disease, tooth decay, or other oral health related matters
- Answer any questions you may have regarding your child’s oral health
In some cases, if your child is very young the dentist may allow you to perform a knee-to-knee exam. This is where the child sits in your lap during the examination so they feel comfortable.
Overall, a pediatric dentist knows that a child’s first dental visit can be overwhelming for both the child and parent, so they do their best to make you both feel as comfortable as possible.
Why is Visiting a Pediatric Dentist Important?
Visiting the dentist during early childhood helps set the stage for good oral health.
When children grow up knowing how important their oral health is, many different parts of their life are positively impacted. Having good oral health improves a child’s confidence, language skills, and overall health.
Even though baby teeth will eventually fall out, those baby teeth hold the space of where your child’s permanent teeth will be. It’s very important that when those permanent teeth arrive, they have a healthy space to grow.
Visiting the pediatric dentist is just as important for the parent as it is for the child. Especially for children who are very young, the parent/caregiver is the primary person in charge of maintaining the child’s oral health.
The pediatric dentist will teach the parent/caregiver how to:
- Keep the child’s gums free of bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease
- Effectively brush teeth when they begin to grow
- Spot any concerns early on so they can be treated as effectively as possible
- Incorporate fluoride into the child’s dental health routine as early as possible
What factors put your child at risk of cavities and other forms of tooth decay?
Cavities and tooth decay are one of the most common diseases impacting children in America. If cavities and tooth decay go untreated, they can cause:
- Pain and swelling due to infection
- Decreased confidence due to the appearance of teeth
- Problems with eating and chewing food
- Issues with speaking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- About 1 in 5 children between the ages of 5-11 years, have at least one untreated decayed tooth
- 1 in 7 adolescents between the ages of 12-19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth
- Children between the ages of 5-19 years from low-income families are twice as likely to get cavities, as opposed to children from higher-income households
Given these alarming statistics, it’s important we recognize what factors put a child at risk of suffering from cavities and other forms of tooth decay.
It’s important for all children to visit a pediatric dentist, but your child’s chances of suffering from tooth decay are higher if:
- Their diet includes a lot of sugar (e.g soda, candy, etc)
- Family members (e.g. brothers, sisters, parents) suffer from having many cavities
- They have special health care needs that make them predisposed to tooth decay (e.g. diabetes, anemia)
- They have braces and/or other oral appliances
If your child falls under any of these categories, it’s especially important you’re monitoring their oral health and regularly visiting the pediatric dentist.
Catching oral health concerns early, will help improve your child’s health over the long term.