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Already at the age of three your child has a beautiful smile. You want to make sure they keep that smile for life. Going to the dentist can often be the most dreaded thing to do in the world for some people. But in order to have and keep a beautiful smile everyone needs dental care. Many parents ask, "When is the best time to start taking your child to the dentist"?
It is extremely rare to have to a child under the age of 2 with significant dental problems. Every child is different and is prepared differently for their first visit. I see children start to become most co-operative between the ages of 3 and 4. This does not mean that you need to wait until your child is co-operative to bring them to the dentist. There are a few things that you can do to make your child's first visit to the dentist both pleasant and successful. Educating them about proper hygiene in the home with a consistent brushing schedule is a good start. If they ask why they need to brush just tell them that they have to clean the sugar bugs form their teeth, especially before bedtime! There are plenty of books that you can read to your child about going to the dentist. It is completely normal to schedule the child's first visit as an orientation visit. The goal of this appointment can range from a walk around to getting in the chair and looking in the child's mouth. It all depends on the child. Another way to break the ice is to have the child attend a routine cleaning with another family member. At the end of the appointment it is appropriate to see if the child will get in the chair and allow the dentist to take a look. The idea is to start slowly, allow the dental team to take over communication with the child and reward good behavior. A successful first visit is a solid foundation to build on into the future as treatment may be required. The only rule of the first visit is to do everything possible to keep the experience positive. There are no defined goals.
If your child's first visit is because they have a cavity or require treatment the first visit it is best to assess the child and orientate them to the surroundings, tools and dental team. Treatment should only commence at a subsequent visit. This allows the dentist to gauge the scope of treatment and the child's compliance level in order to customize management techniques and a treatment sequence. This will give the best opportunity for success. It is okay to help and try to prepare the child for their treatment and encourage their success. Tell-show-do is a very helpful technique when treating children and it is always best to disguise and distract while administering freezing. I always encourage parents/guardians to remain in the waiting rooms as I need the child's undivided attention. It is very important to remember that if the first visit fails due to lack of orientation to the office environment or interference from a parent that a failed first appointment significantly decreases the chances that the child can be successfully treated in a general office and may have to be referred for sedation or other management techniques.
Dr. Storey and Dr. Denomme pride themselves on patient education as a tool to engage patients and help them understand the conditions and treatment options that they may be faced with. There are many tools to enhance patient education and we have streamlined these into our practice. We have high resolution digital x-rays that appear on a computer monitor that can be enlarged. We may utilize many hands on dental models as well as a large library of short high definition animated videos on diagnoses and treatment modes to help patients better understand. We understand that listening is the first tool when a patient presents their problems or challenges. Once we understand the patient's wants and needs we will explain the problems, solutions and sequences augmented by educational tools to allow the patient to understand and make informed decisions. We never want a patient to get out of the chair not understanding why they need treatment and what it entails as we move forward.
We understand that the main concern with x-rays is radiation. With digital sensors versus film we are able to decrease the level of radiation by 80-90 percent every time we take an x-ray. Also we do not believe in treating every patient the same when it comes to x-rays. Every patient is different and customization for frequency and type of x-rays depends on multiple factors. We believe it is good practice to take bitewing x-rays which show between the teeth at a MINIMUM interval of 18 months. For children or adults with a high decay rate or has recently had multiple fillings, crowns or other treatment these x-rays may be taken more often. Periapical x-rays show high-resolution images of roots of the teeth and are taken when the dentist feels that a tooth may be infected or that the supporting bone is diseased. A Panoramic is an image of all of the teeth, jaws and other surrounding structures. It is supplemental and may be taken every 3-5 years. It is most commonly used to see developing teeth in children, wisdom tooth development and location in teenagers and to monitor the entire dentition in adults at intervals determined by the dentist. Regardless of whatever images are taken the dentist for a reason always prescribes them.