Having four kiddos means there are a lot of teeth I have to worry about. My oldest child had her first visit to the dentist when she was two but her dentist said her first visit could have been sooner.
Since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month I thought it would be a great time to share some oral health information to help other families get up to speed so their children have healthy teeth and gums.
I spoke with Dr. Sinha of Kid Island Dental in Great Neck and Hicksville to get answers to the top 10 questions parents have for pediatric dentists!
1. When should a child first visit a dentist?
I agree with the AAPD recommendation that a child should visit a dental provider by the age of 1, or after the eruption of the 1st tooth, whichever occurs first. The primary focus of this early visit is determining risk factors, stressing preventative care and educating the caregivers.
2. How can a parent best prepare a child for their first visit?
I always believe that nervous and fearful parents can actually create an anxious child. Therefore, I recommend that parents make every effort to not pass those fears to a child, especially if the parents have phobias of visiting the dentist. Parents can playfully talk to a child prior to the visit about “counting teeth” and brushing them at the dental visit. There are a lot of children’s books and educational videos from ADA/AAPD about a child’s first dental appointment.
3. Before their first visit, what tips do you have for a parent?
Try not to use the words like “hurt” or “shot.” Let the doctor do most of the explaining since pediatric dentists are uniquely trained to understand the psychology of a child. Parents should know about what type of dental products are being used on the child, if any, at home.
4. If a child is special needs, what ways are they accommodated at their visit?
Most pediatric dentists are trained in treating children with physical, psychological, and mental disabilities. A lot of these children need added assistance while undergoing and learning about procedures. Some children are sensitive to sensory stimulation, new people and even change of environment or routine. We understand all these unique aspects and will work with the families to make sure children feel as comfortable as possible. Sometimes children require sedation in an office or hospital setting for routine or complex care.
5. How can parents prevent their child from getting cavities/tooth decay?
The best way to prevent dental decay is by establishing a proper home hygiene regimen which may include tooth brushing, flossing and fluoride mouth rinses, as recommended based on the patient’s risk assessment for dental cavities by the pediatric dentist. In addition, diet plays a key role; avoiding gummy snacks, candies and soda can also aid in prevention — as well as regular dental check ups.
6. Around when will a parent know their child will most likely need braces?
Orthodontics can be recommended by a pediatric dentist as early as age 7. Pediatric dentists are trained to monitor and evaluate any skeletal/dental discrepancies and will refer to an orthodontist when appropriate.
7. If a child falls and knocks out a tooth, what should a parent do?
If it is a primary tooth, do not try to re-implant it as it can damage the permanent tooth growing underneath. Make an appointment with the pediatric dentist to determine the extent of trauma and any appropriate treatment.
If it’s a permanent tooth, hold it by the crown and try to re-implant (only if clean). Do not touch the root as it has important cells needed to attach the tooth to the bone. If the tooth is dirty, rinse with cold milk or water then re-implant. If it cannot be re-implanted, place in a cup of milk or saliva and visit ER or dentist ASAP!
8. How can a parent know if their child is getting enough fluoride?
The best way is to call your municipality to find out if the community water is fluoridated. If it is not, the pediatric dentist may recommend additional fluoride supplement — again, depending on the risk assessment of your child.
9. If a child is active in sports, what can a parent do to protect their child’s teeth?
Talk to a pediatric dentist about injury prevention. Depending on the sport and age of the child, mouth guards or other protective gear may be recommended. Some mouth guards can be store brought; others can be custom made, depending on the needs and dentition of a child.
10. What should parents do if their child has a toothache?
Make an appointment with a pediatric dentists. Toothaches can be caused by a variety of reasons: decay, infection, trauma, eruption of permanent teeth, systemic illness, etc. It is important to be evaluated by the pediatric dentist to determine the cause and severity of the pain, and to discuss proper treatment to alleviate the issue. Radiographics may be needed in addition to a clinical exam.
Thanks Dr. Sinha!