Why should I use a children’s specialist instead of my general dentist?
It is the same reason you use a pediatrician instead of an internist for your child. A pediatric dentist is a general dentist trained in all phases of dentistry and then studied an additional two to three years concentrating on pediatric medicine, child psychology, and growth and development. Most pediatric dentists also have more growth/development and orthodontic training than general dentists.
Is it more expensive to go to a specialist?
No. Just as it does not cost more to see a pediatrician, pediatric dentists’ fees are comparable to those your family dentist charges. The pediatric dentist treats children because they love to treat children.
How old should my child be when I schedule her first visit?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends scheduling all children to have an infant oral exam when their teeth begin to grow in and at the latest by age 1. Then, parents have a “Dental Home” to help monitor development, prevention education, and in the unfortunate event of oral trauma. By the age of 2 years, many children have been exposed to cavity risk behaviors and could benefit from a thorough cleaning. The most challenging age for a first dental experience is around age four. In the child’s psychological development, that age is sometimes called the age of fears. Four-year-olds are afraid of the dark, monsters, and new experiences. They cannot differentiate between make-believe and reality. That is why Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are real! However, one and two-year-olds are fearless, and a first visit to see the dentist at that age usually sets the tone for future positive experiences.
What is done at the first visit?
The dentist will examine your child, including hard and soft tissues, tonsils, lips, cheeks, and alignment of teeth. The doctor will discuss habits (thumb and pacifiers), nursing, nutrition, proper oral hygiene techniques, and predict future growth and orthodontic development. As much time as necessary will be spent with you, the parent until all of your questions are answered. Statistically, 40% of two-year-old children in the United States have a cavity. Our office prides itself in the fact that over 90% of our 6-month recall patients are cavity-free! We will discuss that with you as well.
How should I prepare my child for the first visit?
The best way to prepare your child is not to prepare at all. Children are very perceptive and can “read” your apprehensions, no matter how subtle. When parents try to ease the visit, they often say things like, “We’re going to the dentist, and they don’t hurt or anything.” The child hears “dentist” and “hurt.” Think about it. We don’t say, “we’re going to the supermarket, and you don’t have to be afraid,” so why prepare for the dentist? Merely tell your child on the day of the visit that today, we will visit the dentist, and they count your teeth. If your child asks questions, tell them, “I don’t know, but you can ask the dentist yourself!” This is true because dentistry has changed drastically from the days when you were young, and chances are, the things you remembered are very different.
Since baby teeth fall out, do they still have to be filled?
Primary teeth or baby teeth last approximately 1/7th of a lifetime. Cavities in primary teeth can cause toothaches and infections, just as they do in adults. Cavities are bacteria, and these bacteria can continue to spread to other teeth. Moreover, an infection in the baby tooth can result in damage to the underlying permanent tooth. If a primary tooth is lost prematurely, the back teeth may move forward into the empty space and block out the unerupted permanent tooth creating an impaction and an orthodontic problem.
My husband was cavity prone as a child. Will my child be cavity prone, too?
There is a genetic component to being cavity prone. There are actually many reasons why a child can be decay-prone. Among these, dry mouths, pitted or deeply grooved teeth, presence or absence of fluoride in the drinking water, frequency of eating, and oral hygiene are all factors. Each child is different, and we are proud of ourselves because most of our six-month check-up patients are decay-free. We will discuss your child’s condition with you and customize a prevention program that is practical and effective.
My child is five years old and still sucks her thumb. How can I encourage her to stop?
Pacifiers should be discontinued when a child no longer nurses or is on a bottle. Thumbs are trickier because they are attached. Over retained sucking habits will cause distortions in the jaws resulting in a gaping jaw or open bite. As the child ages, the tongue rests in the opening between the upper and lower front teeth creating speech problems (lisps) and swallowing disorders. Most children stop sucking thumbs before age five because of social pressures or teasing from other children. We can offer some simple techniques that you can try at home for those who cannot stop. In extreme cases, there are “thumb guards” attached to the teeth to stop the habit.