By Dr. Chris
The past generations, the child’s first dental visit was usually around the time when grade school was started; there were lots of dental cavities found, trauma, or some other related issue that needed an evaluation. Reasons for this was due to the hesitation of some dentists to see children, the difficulty in managing younger children, and if dental cavities had been found, the difficulty of fixing the teeth. A child that was old enough to start Kindergarten was easier to work with then a younger child.
So why are the recommendations different today? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children be seen for the first exam no later than their first birthday. Much is known today about dental cavities including how to do a proper risk assessment and how to prevent.
There are six benefits of seeing children as infants for an early dental exam:
- Break the pattern of dental decay. By the age of 5, reports suggest that over half of the children have experienced dental decay. This rate increases in families with less means. Diet, nature of the bacteria, and prenatal factors contribute in a negative way. Kids that have many cavities at an early age are classified as high risk even when prevention is available. Early intervention can prevent cavities.
- Prevention of spreading decay causing bacteria. Primarily, the bacteria is passed on from the parents (most likely the mother) to the infant at birth. The higher the bacteria count in the parent is, the more likely it gets passed on to the child. Ways of spreading the bacteria include kissing, shared utensils, and shared food. Once the bacteria is introduced, decay can start.
- Habit discussion. Habits such as late age pacifier usage and finger sucking can have serious effects if continued. Discussing habits with parents when children are in their infancy, allows parents time to properly plan on when to move the child away from their habits. A slow change of the habit works better than having to abruptly stop a habit.
- Establishing a dental home. Having a home is important for prevention, treatment, and referral services to support proper oral health. When a child starts to see a dentist in infancy, by the time that child is 2-3, a positive relationship has formed, the child has more confidence and may be more comfortable in the dental setting. Easing a child in to the dental setting is much easier when it is for prevention.
- Care in case of Trauma. Children take falls, accidents happen, if there is a dental related emergency, the dentist is always available for evaluation and treatment. This becomes much harder to find if a doctor-family relationship has not yet been formed.
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