First Trip to the Dentist: At what age should your child start getting exams and what should you expect?
Years ago, dentists recommended seeing kids for the first time by age 3, but nowadays they're wanting to see them sooner. The general recommendation is for a baby to have his first exam within 6 months of cutting his first tooth. In a few cases, that could even be before he's 1!
"What was happening was that some of the children already had some serious infections requiring general anesthesia," Pediatric Dental Associates & Orthodontics dentist Dr. Garrett W. Sanders explains. "Now, we're more preventative; we make sure parents are informed and well-equipped."
What happens at the first visit?
Don't expect a regular teeth-cleaning to happen at the first visit. This first appointment is more about education than anything else. The dentist will want to see which teeth are present and make sure everything is on track. You'll have a chance to talk about any concerns you have and go over topics like bottle tooth decay, teething irritations and prolonged thumb-sucking.
To teach parents how to care for their child's teeth at home, the dentist might gently clean the teeth with a small, soft toothbrush. The examination bench might be too scary for little ones. Many pediatric dentists will sit knee-to-knee with the parent while the child sits on the parent's lap and leans his head back onto the dentist's lap.
Unless there's an issue such as trauma to the mouth or obvious decay, x-rays aren't recommended until age 3. After that, x-rays are usually taken every 6 months to 2 years - depending on the child - to check for cavities.
Where to go?
If you love your dentist, your first impulse might be to start your child there too, but that's not a good idea. Ask your dentist to refer you to a practice that specializes in pediatric dentistry. If you have friends with children, they can be a valuable source for referrals. Ask them who they take their kids to, or try social media. Facebook community pages, such as Bentonville Moms in the Know, are another great way to get recommendations. You can post your question or scroll through old posts - chances are someone has already asked about pediatric dentists.
Did you know that FamilyLifeNWA.com has a complete directory of all the businesses in Northwest Arkansas? Check out The Hub at the top of our home page and click on the business categories you're interested in.
For pediatric dentistry, hover on the "Health & Wellness" tab toward the top of the home page and click on "dentist" under the "Pediatric Specialists" column. Here's a direct link to pediatric dentists in Northwest Arkansas.