I get asked occassionally by friends and family, “when should lil junior get his first dental exam?” This is usually followed by, “I think he might have a cavity.”
Actually, it is recommended that all newborns have their first dental visit within the first year and at least by the time their first teeth start erupting. The obvious question would be why would an infant with no teeth need to see the dentist? It’s important to remember that the teeth are only half of what comprises a true oral exam. It is just as important for a trained professional to examine the head, neck, mouth, and gums for any diseases or problems.
Usually with infants, a simple exam with a mirror and cotton gauze is all that is necessary on the first visit. It is also important to tell the dentist if your child is drinking tap, bottled, or well water. This is important because some water from natural wells and most bottled waters will lack the necessary flouride to promote healthy tooth development. Most city treatment plants add the necessary flouride to help strengthen your childs teeth as they are growing. If your child does not have access to flouridate water than the dentist can prescribe some flouride supplements to help ensure your child is getting enough flouride fro their age.
For the actual exam, most dentist will utilize a “knee-to-knee” position for the exam. This is accomplished by having the child’s parent hold the child facing the parent and sitting. The dentist then sits in front of the parent at the same height and touches “knee-to-knee.” The parent then gently lays the childs upper torso on the dentist’s lap. The dentist then has an excellent view of the head and neck, and the child has the comfort of the parent’s touch as well.
Of course, most infants and young children will become anxious and unhappy in the dental office. Here at Avalon, I believe this first dental visit is the most important in shaping that child’s view and behavior in all future dental visits for the rest of his or her life. Therefore, I emphasize to my team and the parent that we must take our time in introducing a new patient (regardless of age) to our office and dental care in general. For high anxiety patients, I recommend spending the first visit just introducing the patient to the sights, sounds, and smells of a dental office. This desensitizes the child to these new senses. Then I recommend bringing the child back within the next week to actually attempt an exam and cleaning. Of course, every patient is different, and we at Avalon Dental make sure we treat each patient individually.