The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking your child to a pediatric dentist by their first birthday. Often when parents hear “dental visit” and “age 1” their first thought is “no way on earth is my child going to sit still.” The good news is, no one expects them to! The first visit is intended to familiarize a child with feeling comfortable at the dentist and help parents learn how to brush their kids’ teeth.
A young child’s first visit to the dentist is much different than an adult’s typical dental appointment. It is understandable that the dental office can be an intimidating place for kids (it is for many adults too). As a result, much of the first appointment is devoted to introducing various sights and sounds of the dental environment (such as the light, gloves, mask, mirror, dental chair, and suction) in a fun way to help a child feel more relaxed in the new setting. It can often be beneficial to start at a very basic level with young children; for instance, the pediatric dentist might count fingers and explain how this is similar to counting teeth. The overall goal is to ease kids into the routine of coming into the office while keeping the vibe positive and providing much encouragement along the way.
One approach that pediatric dentists find particularly successful with infants and toddlers is the “pillow” exam. This helps the dental team to thoroughly examine a child’s developing teeth and gums while demonstrating the same brushing techniques that they’d recommend parents use at home. The entire process is quick, maybe 1-2 minutes at most, and shortly afterwards, the patient is quickly met with high fives, clapping, and lots of love and support. The pediatric dentist will discuss how many baby teeth have already come in, what to look for in the months ahead, and provide guidance on patient-specific topics of concern (such as fluoride, teething, pacifier use, thumb sucking, x-rays, flossing, tooth injuries, etc).
While the first 2-3 visits to the pediatric dentist may be unpredictable, fortunately, each follow-up visit tends to be a bit easier. Children become more familiar with the staff and learn exactly what to expect during their appointment — the prizes, Netflix, stickers, iPads, and corny dental jokes all help too 🙂 In an ideal world, the dental team loves for those first few visits to occur at younger ages (around 1-2 years old is great); that way, when a child is a bit older (closer to preschool age), they are already quite comfortable and confident in the dental setting, even looking forward to their visit!
Prevention is a huge focus for pediatric dentists. During a child’s first visit, much time and effort is devoted to education and protection against the development of cavities. Some kids may have a certain predisposition to decay. Certain genetic factors may not be changed. However, we can control many environmental factors (such as diet/beverage selection and brushing/flossing habits). The earlier that parents and dental providers team up to put a strong prevention plan in place, the more fun and relaxing each visit to the dentist will tend to be. Bottom line, starting your child’s pediatric dental experience at a young age will help get them on the right track for a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles!
- Board Certified: DC Pediatric Smiles is proud to be the only pediatric dental practice in Bethesda owned and operated by a board certified pediatric dentist.
- Free Parking: They offer ample, surface parking just steps away from our door. And the office is completely stroller accessible, no stairs or elevator.
- Convenient Hours: Open select evenings and Saturdays with 24/7 on-call services provided by Dr. Blank for any after-hours emergencies.
- Complimentary First Visit: For children ages 2 and under, they offer a free initial appointment. And for patients of all ages, please stop in for a complimentary office tour!
- Latest Technology: The all-digital office is excited to offer the newest high-tech conveniences including iPad check-in, online appointment booking, and Netflix.
- Potomac Surf Club: Have you ever surfed the Potomac? Doubt it. But a clean check-up will earn your child a spot in the exclusive Potomac “Cavity-Free” Surf Club.
DC Pediatric Smiles approach is Laugh, Grow, Smile. Get to know Dr. Blank a little:
LAUGH I’m a Cleveland Browns’ fan.
GROW Triathlons, skiing, and surfing — each accurately described as “work in progress”.
SMILE Coming home to my wife and kids.
Phone: (301) 363-9026