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New parents have plenty to worry about: making sure their baby is healthy and happy, re-arranging their lives around hectic schedules and lost sleep, and figuring out what to do in all sorts of novel situations. When it comes to your child's oral health, though, there's plenty of help available. It all begins when you bring your youngster in for his or her first visit to the dentist.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child's first checkup should occur by age one. Surprised? You shouldn't be! Even though there may only be a few baby teeth visible at that age, there are plenty of things to start working on — including the development of healthy habits that will make future visits to the dentist far more pleasurable.
Unfortunately, some kids develop tooth decay at an early age. We will be on the lookout for cavities — but that's only one reason for an early visit. Equally important is reviewing the proper ways to care for a young child's mouth, going over your child's developmental milestones, and discussing the importance of good oral hygiene.
The way kids seem to pick up on their parents' feelings sometimes seems uncanny; so, if you're nervous about going to the dentist yourself, try not to let it show. Generally, this first visit involves simply talking to you and your child, looking in his or her mouth, and making oral health assessments. It's best to tell your child what to expect beforehand, without making too big a fuss about it. You could even build some excitement by helping them get ready for “the big day.”
It's a good idea to bring a comforting toy, a snack, and an extra diaper or two, just in case of fussiness. If possible, leave other kids at home, so the new patient can get all the attention. If not possible, bringing another adult along, however, may free your attention to focus on your child's oral health. Likewise, filling out forms in advance may save time and effort on the day of the visit.
When you and your child are comfortably seated in the office, a gentle examination of your child's mouth will be performed to uncover any early signs of dental problems such as tooth decay, and assess the risk that your child may develop the disease in the future. Often, this kind of risk assessment can help prevent — and even reverse — the early stages of tooth decay, without any drilling.
Finally, various ways to keep your child's oral health in top condition will be discussed. This may include how diet, eating habits and oral hygiene practices can help prevent tooth decay, the most common chronic disease of childhood. That's an important subject for everyone — even more so if your child is at greater risk. If any treatments (such as fluoride) are needed, a full explanation will be given. Tips on cleaning and brushing effectively will be reviewed and a follow-up visit will be scheduled as required.
Many habits are developed early in life. That's why it's important to “get it done by age one.” So when it's time for your child's first visit… don't hesitate! You'll be glad you came in.
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