Your Child's First Visit To The
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
cure." How well this proverb applies to children's dental health! The
American Dental Association, the American Academy of General Dentistry, and the
American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry all recommend that your child's first
oral health visit take place at 12 months of age, or shortly after the
eruption of the first baby teeth. This is the ideal time for a dentist to
evaluate your child's oral and dental health, as well as to diagnose any
problems which may exist.
In the past, children went to the dentist only after a problem was severe enough
to be noticed by a parent. Such an outdated, reactive, approach is no longer
appropriate in the age of preventive health, however. The infant oral
health visit is now the foundation upon which a lifetime of oral and dental
health can be built!
The goals of the infant oral health visit are to: assess your child's
risk for dental disease, begin a dental preventive program, provide
"anticipatory guidance," and determine the most appropriate dental
recall schedule for your child.
During your child's visit, the dentist will:
Ask about your child's medical history.
Inquire about dietary and feeding habits.
Assess the need for fluoride supplements.
Evaluate your child's oral hygiene.
Examine the mouth for dental caries or other problems.
Discuss age-appropriate oral hygiene techniques.
Your dentist will especially be looking for signs of early childhood caries (ECC).
One important warning sign of the caries disease is "white spot
lesions." These are white, chalky areas on the front teeth, close to
the gum line. These decalcifications, caused by acid producing bacteria,
directly precede irreversible loss of tooth structure.
Some first visit DOS:
Take time to play "dentist" with your child at home. Pretend
that you're counting teeth, then switch roles and let your child play
Read your child a story about going to the dentist.
Make the dental appointment for a time when your child is well-rested.
Inform your dentist about any medical or psychological problems which your
child may have.
Openly discuss your questions and concerns.
Some first visit "DON'TS:
Don't convey anxiety about the dental visit to your child.
Don't worry if your child cries a little during the visit, since this is
perfectly normal behavior for infants.
Don't use negative words like: hurt, shot, needle, or drill around your
Above all: don't be afraid to ask your dentist lots of questions.
A dental journal article discusses the importance of early dental
Nowak AJ: Rationale for the timing of the first oral evaluation.
Pediatric Dentistry. 19:8-13,1997.
Dental Medications And
A mother who breast-feeds her child may be concerned
about the effects of drugs and medications on her infant's health. Most
medications appear in the breast milk a few hours after taking them. There may
be risks to a baby's health when a mother takes certain medications, as
well as risks in giving formula to a baby who was previously breast-fed. It is
therefore important for a woman to discuss the risks and benefits of each
medication with her physician or dentist before using it.
A nursing infant receives approximately 1% of the mother's drug dose.
The amount of medication in breast milk depends on the drug's characteristics
such as its half-life, lipid solubility, and metabolic by-products. The extent
to which a medication appears in the breast milk also depends on the rate at
which milk is produced, the composition of the milk, the blood flow to the
breast, and the frequency of medication use.
The following dental medications are compatible with breast-feeding, and are