By Nancy Meyer
Little kids that are missing teeth — adorable. Adults that are missing teeth — not so much. Unfortunately, a surprising number of parents are rather lax in the way they care for their children’s baby teeth. Some parents are under the mistaken impression that because baby teeth are only temporary that there is no need to take care of them. Others don’t realize that some habits, such as allowing a baby to fall asleep with a bottle of milk or juice in their mouth, can lead to tooth decay.
The consequences of poor infant dental health can actually be long term. According to Parenting.com, a child’s adult teeth may come in improperly if he loses his baby teeth too early because of poor dental hygiene. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that untreated tooth decay could even cause a child to have problems eating and, in some cases, playing and learning.
The First Appointment
Regular checkups with a dentist are a key element in a child’s oral hygiene routine. Children should begin seeing a dentist either when their first tooth erupts or by the age of one, and then see their practitioners on a regular basis every six months, according to Kool Smiles. A big plus of taking your children to see a dentist early is that it then becomes a routine part of their lives. If you wait until they have a cavity or multiple issues with their teeth, their first visit could prove to be unnecessarily traumatic.
Dentists whose practices are geared towards adults tend to have a sterile and practical appearance, which will do nothing to make a child feel comfortable. Pediatric dentists, on the other hand, typically have waiting rooms with colorful murals on their walls, and many practices also have game centers or play areas designed to keep a child’s mind off of the upcoming procedures. The treatment areas of pediatric dentists are also usually brightly painted and many providers also have televisions and DVD players so that young patients can watch movies as they have their teeth done.
How to Choose a Pediatric Dentist
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), pediatric dentists typically have several years of specialized training in children dentistry and most limit their practices to just the treatment of children. To find a pediatric dentist for your child, visit several offices in your area, if possible, to see which has a warm and friendly staff and if they have waiting rooms that would be welcoming to your child.
As always, word of mouth can be very helpful in finding a pediatric dentist. Ask your neighbors and the parents of your child’s friends if they know of a practitioner they would recommend. You might also want to ask your own dentist if he or she knows of a pediatric colleague they could refer you to.
How to Ease Fears of the Dentist
One of the key things that a parent must do is avoid transferring any of their own fears to a child. Never, for instance, say something like, “Don’t worry. It won’t be too painful,” which implies that there will be pain. Instead, talk about the fun activities that are available at the pediatric dentist’s office, such as the play area. Some parents also recommend buying a children’s books about dentists and reading it to your child so he can get an idea of what he will soon be experiencing.
Nancy Meyer is a mom, fashionista and freelance writer who is proud of her Brooklyn accent.