Your Child's Oral Health  

(Photo: Contributed)
(Photo: Contributed)

The first dental visit: when?

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A visit to the dentist: no one we know relishes that experience. But, what about a child’s first dental visit? Is that any different? You bet! And if your child has a good experience, a happy visit, you can expect your child will look forward to return visits to the dental office. Sounds unbelievable doesn’t it? That’s the logic behind the recommendation from the Canadian Dental Association that a child visit the dentist by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth appearing. In the first year of life, a child visits their physician at scheduled intervals so that the physician and parents can make sure that all is well. That’s why these visits are called well-baby visits. The physician examines the baby and asks questions appropriate for the baby’s developmental stage. Dealing with small problems early prevents them from becoming larger problems later. That same logic applies to dental visits early in life.

In the “old days”, parents were advised to bring their child for their first dental visit when the child was around three years of age. The thinking was that a three-year-old child will have all of their baby teeth, will be reasonably cooperative and will be able to have simple conversations. Sadly, this out-of-date “thinking” is still very prevalent today. And, unfortunately, many dental offices are still seeing three-year-olds who have lots of tooth decay. Had these three-year-olds been seen at 12-18 months of age, it is likely that potentially harmful habits could have been intercepted or modified and tooth decay prevented.

But dental visits are about more than tooth decay and oral health is about more than healthy teeth. Dental visits not only involve an oral examination, they may also include information about and demonstration of tooth-brushing and flossing, a discussion about soothers and thumb-sucking, counseling for oral injury prevention, discussion about fluoride usage, dietary counseling relevant to oral health and counseling for speech and language development to name a few components of excellent oral health.

Parents of the 3-year-old child who has been having regular visits from 12-18 months of age will have already learned many lessons to provide excellent oral care at home. Having regular dental visits early in life also allows parents to receive answers to their questions as their child develops. Establishing the DENTAL HOME early on provides parents and children with continuity of care and a place where parents can obtain reliable information.

The bottom line is this: if children see the dentist by 12 months of age, or within six months of the first tooth appearing the probability is very high that the child will grow up experiencing excellent oral health. Early visits provide children opportunities to develop a relationship with their dental care providers and comfort with the dental environment, which we will all admit, can be somewhat intimidating. There is an old saying that you’ve probably heard before, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Sometimes the best way to prevent problems is to be informed about their existence.

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About the Author

Dr. Alan Milnes is a pediatric dentist with 35 years of practice experience and 20 years of experience as a full time University Professor at the Universities of Manitoba and Toronto. He has operated a full time pediatric dental practice in Kelowna since 1997, the only pediatric dental office in either the Interior or Northern Health Authorities.

Dr. Terry Farquhar  completed his pediatric dental residency training in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Rochester, New York. Prior to entering Dentistry, Dr. Farquhar  worked as a pediatric nurse at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary.

Their pediatric dental specialty practice provides a complete range of dental services for ALL children and teens including treatment in-office using various forms of behaviour guidance, oral, inhalational and intravenous sedation and treatment in hospital under general anesthesia.

"We are dealing with an epidemic of tooth decay in children, a condition called early childhood tooth decay. Many children with dental disease have a poor quality of life because of chronic pain and infection which makes sleeping and eating difficult. Providing information through our column to parents of children in the Interior of BC will be helpful in giving them important tools to prevent dental disease in their children."

Please visit our website for a look at what we do each and every day and our qualifications - www.okanagandentalcareforkids.com; email: [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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