New parents often ask, “When should my child first see a dentist?” From what I’ve read, the short answer is “first visit by first birthday.” That’s the view of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. And most pediatricians agree. I remember reading in all my research about “first dental visits for toddlers” that the median age is around 2 ½ years old, but most dentists really like to see kids by age one. “It’s not that we see a lot of problems in one year olds, it’s just a good idea to get the child acquainted with coming in and getting their dental health started off right,” stated one dentist.
Well, Emma will be turning 2 years old next month, so it seemed like a good time to schedule her first trip to the dentist! Ever since Emma’s first teeth (the bottom two in the middle, her lower central incisors) came in when she was about 6 months old, we’ve been practicing brushing her teeth. I bought her The Berenstein Bears Visit the Dentist book and started reading it to her all the time, along with her first toothbrush – pink princesses of course – and the fluoride-free toothpaste for infants. It was such a fun thing to practice with her, and gnawing on the toothbrush was instant teething relief for those sore gums. Now that Emma is almost 2, brushing our teeth has become a family affair. We make it a BIG deal and we all partake. It’s probably one of her favorite things to do. Mommy or Daddy gets to brush her teeth (top, bottom, front and tongue) first, and then Emma gets to do it. I call this “mirroring” – you watch me do it, then you do it – and it’s worked great for teaching Emma how to brush. The Elmo toothbrush and Dora toothpaste probably help make it way more fun, too! Once Emma turned one, we transitioned to the kiddie toothpaste with fluoride to help protect her enamel. She likes the Colgate “blue” flavor best (that’s what she calls it!). So now that we had brushing teeth down to a “T,” we were ready to show her pearly whites off to the dentist.
We had asked around town for a few pediatric dentist referrals and both friends and our pediatrician recommended Dr. Stephen Holmes of Uptown Pediatric Dentistry. His office and staff get an A+ for first impressions right off the bat! When I called to make the appointment, the receptionist was super friendly and patiently answered ALL my “crazy mommy” questions. Once we arrived to the office for the visit, we were greeted with a warm, friendly smile and tons of toddler distractions: bright colored walls, crazy toddler chairs, Disney cartoons on the TV and plenty of other games. It was Emma’s dream come true!
The wait was NOT long enough according to Emma, “more Mickey Mouse, mommy!” and we were seen within 5 minutes of arriving. As we walked back to the patient area, I could sense Emma getting nervous about the new faces and places, and as if on cue, the hygienist tossed Emma a green squeaky frog to play with. The frog helped, but so did the fact that I stayed super calm and collected. Kids are so good at picking up on vibes, so as long as we stay “cool,” they usually do, too! Dr. Holmes was super friendly and extremely easy to talk to. He told me to expect some crying from Emma, and he was 100% correct.
At this point, Emma was pretty much freaking out when we tried to lay her on the examination table, so we did what most do: the knee-to-knee exam. Dr. Holmes and I sat on chairs facing each other, while Emma sat on my lap, facing me. I then laid her back with her head in his lap. In this position, both the dentist and myself could see clearly into Emma’s mouth and she could look up at me. Pretty sure she didn’t hear one word I said as I tried to calm her down and keep her from kicking one of my teeth out! Dr. Holmes politely walked us through everything he was going to do. During the consultation, we counted teeth, discussed cleaning, diet, frequency of appointments, and short and long-term dental care all the while fighting Emma’s shrieking cries and strong squirms to break free.
Either way, I was pleasantly surprised and super proud of Emma! She’s such a trooper and willing to give anything a try. And, she’s a really good tooth brusher! Honestly, it was a quick and painless “meet and greet,” a very short and informal visit, which was good because Emma was not a happy camper until she was sitting upright in my lap hugging my neck. We learned that Emma has done a great job of keeping her teeth clean and we’re going to monitor some dark spots on her back molars. He didn’t call them cavities yet, but they could be arrested cavities that formed when the tooth grew in and as the enamel formed over a speckle of bacteria. He assured me that it was strictly due to the anatomy of her teeth (she has very deep grooves on her molars) and not our teeth cleaning habits! Whew! Not too bad for a first visit!