A common question from parents of young children is, “When should my children be seen for their first dental exam?” We recommend the first dental visit at the age of three. By this age the child will generally allow us to check and clean their teeth, but they rarely need dental treatment.
During the examination, we are evaluating a variety of conditions. We are checking for any decay and the way the teeth fit together. Also, if your child is a thumb sucker or uses a pacifier, this is a good time to encourage them to stop before harm can be done to their teeth. We are also looking at the size of the tonsils and the frenum attachment (the tissue from the lip to the gum between the front teeth), as these can impact the development of the face and jaw.
Large tonsils can obstruct a child’s airway space, which can impact a child’s eating, breathing, and the shape of their mouth. Difficulty breathing at night causes poor sleep patterns leading to daytime sleepiness or poor attention. Enlarged tonsils can also cause a change in the normal growth of the upper and lower jaws, which can increase the need for or duration of orthodontics down the road.
The frenum attachment is a muscle that connects the upper lip to the gum line. Sometimes the frenum is attached too low, which can cause a wide gap between the front teeth and or gum line recession as children get older.
A child’s first visit is meant to be fun and exciting! They get a “ride in the chair” and we show them our “flashlight” for the mouth, also known as the dental light, along with every child’s favorite part, “Mr. Thirsty and the squirt gun,” which is the suction and water hand piece. Start your child out with a positive first dental visit and you will find that they will look forward to future visits.