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CHICAGO – Finding a “dental home” for your child by age 1 should be a priority for parents who haven't given much thought about that first trip to the dentist.
The Chicago Dental Society (CDS) recommends that parents take their child to the dentist sometime between the eruption of the first tooth and the child's first birthday. The dentist will provide an examination and will screen for any dental problems. On the initial visit, the parents will also receive instructions on how to provide good oral care for their toddler.
Why do children need to visit the dentist so early?
“Good dental care is linked to a child's overall health, and it should begin at an early age,” said Kirk Kollman, DDS, a pediatric dentist in Chicago. “The first dental visit is an important milestone for the toddler and parents. It helps the child to feel comfortable with going to the dentist's office and being around the dentist.”
If parents promote good dental health habits early on, there is a greater chance that their child will develop a routine that leads to a lifetime of good oral hygiene. Children with healthy teeth chew foods easily, learn to speak clearly and smile with confidence.
A first trip to the dentist should be planned in advance to avoid any potential problems. Parents can read books to their children about first dental visits, and talk about the special trip so that the child will be more at ease.
The first visit is a get-acquainted session with the dentist and family. The dentist may let the child sit and ride in the chair alone and look at the dental equipment. The dentist will examine
the mouth and teeth, and answer questions. Many dentists provide a small toy or sticker for the child at the end of the visit.
The Chicago Dental Society (CDS) and Dr. Kollman have some advice for parents:
Select a time for your appointment when your child will be alert and rested, not tired and cranky.
Read your child a story featuring a character that has a visit to the dentist. Your library or bookstore may have some available that will put your child at ease. If your child is older, another option is to go online to the CDS Web site, Just for Kids, to help prepare for the visit.
Do not use any words that can scare your child. Don't say the visit “won't hurt” because it raises the issue that it might. About 90 percent of first visits and dental checkups are non-invasive and don't involve pain.
Bring a list of questions about your child's dental health along and discuss them with the dentist during your visit.
Allow the dentist to establish rapport with your child to build a better relationship. Ask the dentist if you should stay in the room with your child during the appointment.
“We recommend that a child has regularly scheduled visits with the dentist every six months or sooner, if a problem develops,” Dr. Kollman said.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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