Welcome to February, National Children’s Dental Health Month! What better way to celebrate than to bring your child in for a checkup? Parents can get nervous when it’s the first time, so we've partnered with the doctors at Rye Pediatric Dentistry to give you the scoop on what to expect during a first visit.
But first, don’t forget to check out our list of local Valentine's Day events for kids! And did the cold weather keep you from the Hoff-Barthelson Music School Summer Arts Program Open House? Find out more info and take advantage of their registration discount through Thursday, February 7th.
Baby’s first dental appointments
When to book
You should take your child to the dentist after the first tooth appears but no later than their first birthday. Just like their first pediatrician visit, the initial dental visit is a well-baby check up for your child’s teeth. There probably won't be much to diagnose, but that's a good thing. You'll establish a “dental home” the same way you establish a medical home with your pediatrician, and get your child comfortable in the office so they are relaxed for future visits.
Seeing a dentist before your child reaches one year can help diagnose any signs of tooth problems or early decay that would otherwise go unnoticed. A dentist will help you spot and eliminate the problem.
What to expect
The goal of the first visit is to introduce your child to the dental office in a fun and non-threatening manner. The dentist will check for cavities, assess gum health, and go over oral hygiene practices. Your child’s teeth will be cleaned and fluoride will be applied. Your child’s bite will be assessed based on pacifier use and thumb sucking habits. Feeding practices that lead to tooth decay will be discussed.
Many pediatric dentist offices are brightly painted with books, toys, and TV screens abound. At Rye Pediatric Dentistry, the waiting room was so friendly our daughter didn't want to leave! Once in the examination room, kids get to choose a character-themed toothbrush, don some cool sunglasses to block the brightness of the spotlight, and lean back to watch an episode of their favorite show from the TV on the ceiling while the dentist examines their teeth.
There are no x-rays in the first visit, just a thorough brushing using flavored toothpaste, flossing, and a flouride treatment. Our daughter was so mellow during her first visit that she even let them scrape some plaque from behind her teeth. Each visit is personalized to the child, and no treatments are initiated without a parent's okay. X-rays will happen once the child’s teeth make contact, usually around 4 years old.
The dentists at Rye Pediatric Dentistry are Dr. Paul K. Chu and Dr. Narmatha Sinnarajah. As an infant-to-adolescent office, they have experience with small children and they understand the anxiety surrounding doctor’s visits with little ones. They'll work tirelessly to make sure kids and parents are comfortable and taken care of.
A parent’s role
But as important as a good dentist is to healthy teeth, parents are the primary gateway to a child's oral health. Much of your first appointment will be spent educating you on the best practices to take care of little teeth. When it comes to plaque, some foods we may consider wholesome can become tooth enemies. For example, did you know that goldfish crackers, if left between teeth too long, can cause decay? The crackers get lodged between teeth, where the carbohydrates break down into sugars and work their (black) magic. It's important to brush your child's teeth after any snack with carbs or sugars that could get stuck in the teeth.
At the end of our visit, we spent a while at the Treasure Chest picking out a small toy to take home. There were so many fun things we didn't know which one to choose! This is the part of the appointment kids remember the most. My daughter is begging to go back so she can pick out a new treasure!
How often to see the dentist
After their first visit, your child should come in for a wellness check every six months. Parents may think, "They're just baby teeth, we don't have to worry too much about them if they're all going to fall out anyway, right?" But primary teeth play an important role. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.
I hope that answers your questions about their first visit to the dentist. If you have a question we haven't covered, the doctors at Rye Pediatric Dentistry invite you to reach out.
That's it for this week! For more events and musings, follow us on Facebook and Instagram. And as always, check our website for events and our easy-to-navigate chart of every weekly kids library program in Westchester.
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See you next time!