From the First Tooth Until the Last: A Parent’s Guide to the Dentist

The start of the school year is quickly approaching and while the ways your child will learn this year are different from before, there’s still a sense of normalcy you can help provide your child by practicing consistent and healthy habits. Because parents like you have their hands full right now, we put together this handy guide to walk you through the major milestones of your child’s dental visits.
When it comes to kids, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that tooth decay is the single most common chronic condition in children. Of children ages 2-19, nearly 20% have untreated tooth decay that can cause problems with their eating, speaking, and learning. The good news is, not only is tooth decay in children treatable – it’s preventable.
Before we dive into the healthy habits you should help your child establish for the upcoming school year, let’s do a quick review of what parents need to know about dental visits and their kids – from their first tooth until their last.

Start your child off on the right track

The American Dental Association (ADA), recommends that children have their first dental visit between getting their first tooth or by their first birthday. Obviously, your child won’t have a lot of teeth to clean at these early visits, but getting them used to the dental office and establishing it as a safe and happy experience goes a long way to make them comfortable as they get older. (Worried about teething? We’ve got you covered.)
Your child’s dentist may recommend you follow up in either six months or a year, up until their third birthday. Around age three, children have enough teeth that their hygienists can begin to clean their teeth in a kid-friendly way and help show them how to brush. These visits aren’t just for your child – you have the opportunity to ask important questions about getting your kiddos on board for good habits.
Around age five, your child’s dentist will begin to take x-rays at their visits. If a dental emergency happens before, of course, x-rays may be taken sooner. These images help to establish a baseline for tracking the changes and developments their mouths are going through.

Preventative care for peace of mind

Twice yearly check-ups and cleanings go a long way for protecting your child’s smile for years to come, and your dental team can help coach your child on how to best protect their teeth. Between all of the major insurances Dental Depot acceptsincluding Soonercare and Medicaid – preventative services for children are normally covered at 100% so there’s little reason to skip out on care.
Other preventative services – like dental sealants and fluoride treatment – help protect teeth outside of the office from cavities in hard-to-reach places, and these, too, are often covered by insurances. Plus, you can buy kid-safe toothpaste with added fluoride for extra protection. And, most cities add fluoride to the tap water for yet another way to keep teeth strong and healthy.
Sealants are especially handy when your child gets both their 6- and 12-year molars. Molars have the largest chewing surface area and because they’re in the back of an already small mouth, they’re understandably hard to reach. However, sealants have you covered – literally. These thin plastic coatings go over the chewing surface of the molars, and reduce the risk of cavities by 80%!

Prepare for the future

While we’re talking about prevention, it’s important to mention preparation. That’s right, an orthodontic consultation. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that children have an initial orthodontic consult at age seven. This consultation doesn’t mean your child needs to start orthodontic treatment then but gives both you and your orthodontist an idea of what’s to come as their smile develops. Your orthodontist can help you get ahead of potential problems. The AAO estimates that about 50% of the population can benefit from orthodontic care, so it’s worth checking out even if your child may not end up needing braces or aligners.
Another bonus to having your child’s dentist and orthodontist on the same team comes as they plan for your child’s final set of teeth – wisdom teeth! Did you know not everyone has them? It’s true. But for the majority of us, we’ll still have to deal with these extra molars. For some, the teeth come in smoothly and for others, they can cause problems – like impaction – and will need to be removed.
Sometimes your general dentist is able to safely remove these wisdom teeth in office and without the need for sedation. Of course, your child will still be numbed and made comfortable throughout the procedure. If your child does have a more complicated case – such as roots that tangle with nerves, or teeth that have come in sideways – it may be necessary to refer them to an oral surgeon to have these teeth removed.

Routines save teeth

We become what we do, and if healthy habits aren’t a part of our schedules, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble down the road. Establishing consistent, healthy habits with your child is essential.
The ADA recommends that everyone brushes their teeth twice a day, for two minutes at a time to make sure you’re cleaning each surface of every tooth. Follow this up with flossing once a day and you’ve got a winning combination for a healthy, beautiful smile that will last a lifetime.
As a parent, you’ve got four minutes a day to build this habit with your kids to set them up for success. Here a few ways to make the most of this time together:

  • Nobody said brushing was the only thing you can do in those two minutes – make it a dance party! Put on your child’s favorite song (one that’s at least two minutes long, check out Brush DJ for awesome recommendations) and jam it out.
  • Stick to the routine! We know your days are long and busy, and just how exhausting a full day can be for kiddos. Even then, make sure they brush. Never skip it, even when neither of you really wants to mess with it. This helps it to become a lasting habit that both of you should be able to master even when you’re half asleep.
  • Did somebody ask for a gold sticker? If your child is motivated by small rewards or recognitions, like stickers, they might benefit from a brushing calendar. Check out these free resources from the ADA that lets you print off a whole year’s worth!
  • Let your kid pick out their toothbrush and toothpaste – so long as it has the ADA seal of approval! Just like their favorite superheroes have trusty gadgets to help them defend against bad guys, your child can feel empowered by using a toothbrush they actually love to keep their teeth healthy and strong.
  • Brush together. It’s one thing to tell your kids to brush their teeth and trust that they do it, it’s another to lead by example and get in there to do it with them!

At the end of the day, these are the habits that will help you and your child to have healthy smiles – how you motivate them is up to you.
Combined with regular dental visits for preventative care and preparation for future treatment, there won’t be any room for dental anxiety. It’s entirely possible to get your child excited about the dentist and that’s a large part of what we’re doing here at Dental Depot. We want you and your children to get excited and to feel safe.
To set up your child’s back-to-school visit, call your nearest Dental Depot location or schedule an appointment through our free text service by using the chat icon on the right side of your screen.

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