Should I take my child to a pediatric dentist?

People often ask the age old question, does my child really need to go to a Pediatric Dentist or can they just go to my general dentist. For some a general dentist may be ok especially since there is an existing relationship with the family, but you must also consider other things such as the dentist’s experience and knowledge with children. Most general dentist do have some experience with children. I would be sure to choose a dentist who will be honest enough with you and let you know when to take your child to a pediatric dentist. If you are not sure you have that level of trust with your dentist, I’d error on the side of caution and bring your child to a pediatric dentist instead.

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When is it appropriate to bring my child to the dentist?

Ideally, no more than six months after a child’s tooth exposes itself. Anytime longer than that, and you are opening up your child to potential issues. At this stage, a dentist will be able to explore and observe the development of the child’s teeth and gums. They’ll be able to catch most dental issues if any, even this early in their development. They may also be able to teach you about how to care for your child’s teeth to prevent early problems such as gum disease, teething issues, tooth decay and potentially prolonged thumbsucking.

What can I do to prepare my child for their first visit?

Children often have fear of doing new and unfamiliar things. In order to make sure you have a smooth and productive time at the dentist, you’ll want to be ready for how they might respond ahead of time. The experience should not be a surprise to them, as you can explain the process before going to the dentist. You can also be creative and try to make the experience exciting and something to be desired rather than be loathed. Maybe you can both wear a super man/woman costume to show how brave and strong you are. Whatever you do, don’t just leave it to chance by not preparing for this new adventure for your child. You could create a lifetime of dental fear if you are not careful.

Is there anything I can do at home to promote healthy teeth?

This is a very important question to ask since your child is going to be with you a lot more than they will be with the dentist. So the things you do will directly impact the dental health of your child. Early on you should clean your infant’s gums with damp cloth. Consult with your dentist to see if it’s ok to use a little bit of toothpaste on the gums area. When teeth actually come in you’ll want to be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush with just a small amount of toothpaste. Around age 5 or maybe even earlier your child should be able to brush his or her own teeth. This early habit will set them up for dental success and good dental health for a lifetime.

These are just a few tips on how to get your child started on the right dental path. Please consult with your dentist before caring for your children’s teeth as each child is unique and may require special care.

I am Valerie M. Preston, DDS with more than 20 years of experience in the dental industry. I’m an expert in restorative and cosmetic dentistry and a proud member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Dental Association and the North Carolina Dental Society. I own VPreston Dental in Raleigh, NC, a dental clinic known for its spa-like ambiance. For more details, you can check out my website, Facebook and Twitter pages.