Most every professional dental association recommends that children visit a dentist by the first birthday or when the first teeth grow in. The important thing is to choose a dentist that satisfies the needs. The bottom line is to get dental care that’s regular, effective, and above all, comfortable for the child. Needless to say, the dentist must be competent and proficient, with an aptitude for working with children. Without these traits, great results are far from assured.
For children, the clinic environment will make a big difference when visiting the dentist. Having a friendly staff is essential, and having an amazing waiting room will create a welcome atmosphere. With toys and books, and even video games, every child will feel at ease, in an otherwise anxious atmosphere. The idea is to make the visit less intimidating and somewhat more enjoyable during a routine exam. In many cases, this may include flat screen televisions with some favorite shows.
Finding the right dentist shouldn’t be a challenge. In many cases, a recommendation will do just fine - whether from a family member, a pediatrician, or another dentist. For those who are relocating, or just searching for a new approach, the exercise of choosing a new dentist could actually be rewarding. When a child has special needs, this might require added research, so that the needs are properly addressed, with treatment options that may include mild sedation.
For many parents, meeting the new dentist and checking out the office environment might be a necessary step in determining whether the fit is good. Here, it’s not inappropriate to ask the new dentist about specific training for treating children; or special services that include emergencies; or if dental benefit plans are accepted. It may also be suitable to arrange for an initial visit for the child, and to observe the examination first hand, after which a better decision can be made.
The dentist should offer comprehensive oral health care that is particularly relevant to a child developing oral health care habits. This would include a complete dental history; a preventive approach to encourage personal involvement; and a “take-away” that encompasses day-to-day maintenance on the home front. Overall, it should be an experience that sets the stage for regular and ongoing dental visits that are both productive and enjoyable.
For the most part, children will visit a dentist from the early years right to adolescence. Clearly, oral exams will be key to prevention and early diagnosis. As well, issues like pacifier use, thumb sucking, and teeth grinding will be addressed. And finally, there may be a need for repairs and restoration, depending on the specific deficiency. Year after year, there should also be focus on tooth development, and the potential need for corrective orthodontics in certain situations.
Last, but not least, is the absolute need for patient education. And here, it’s about fundamentals: a healthy diet; proper care of teeth; correctly brushing and flossing; dealing with emergencies; even anticipating the arrival of permanent teeth.