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Nilda M. Collins, DMD, MDS
Children Under Three and the Dentist
Collins, Bross & Associates Pediatric Dentistry

Children Under Three and the Dentist

There is a part of pediatric dentistry that is very difficult and I wish more parents knew about it because, for the most part, it can be avoided. This is restorative dentistry (fillings, extractions and other dental treatment) in children younger than three years of age.
The first thing that these parents say when they realize that their little child needs extensive and complicated treatment is, “I was told to come after three years of ageI wish somebody would have told me to come earlier.”
Let us first of all analyze where the “age three for the first dental visit” belief came from. You will probably find a variety of answers depending on whom you ask. The bottom line is that there is no consensus as to when the child should go to the dentist for the first time amongst the public and even many health professionals.
First of all, when it comes to dentistry for children, who would be the utmost authority for children in the field? In the U.S. it is the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and their recommendation is “first visit by first birthday!” Their rationale is that the earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. The next authority on children's dental care could be the American Dental Association (ADA) and their recommendation is first visit no later than 18 months of age.
The primary (baby teeth) are extremely important, they are holding the space for permanent teeth and do not fall out for many years. The back teeth actually don't fall out until 10-12 years of age. Healthy baby teeth for the most will ensure healthy permanent teeth; therefore it is important to take care of them.
Most parents, when they hear the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, are shocked at first because they imagine 12 month olds sitting in a dental chair having their teeth cleaned while they scream and get scared. The fact is that until about age three the infants and toddlers have an examination while sitting on the parents lap in what's called the knee to knee technique. This is a very atraumatic approach which allows the dentist to perform a very thorough examination with a mirror and explorer (pointy instrument to detect decay) and do early diagnosis of malformations of enamel, and possible decay or baby bottle syndrome.
Parents help us lay the grounds for dentistry for children in the future. Take your children to the dentist very early for an infant or toddler screening.
Dentistry is not an option. Just like you take your child to the pediatrician and have all their vaccinations to do prevention, even though you know that your child may not be happy about it some times, the same holds true for dentistry.

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