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Your Child’s First Dental Visit

dentist Vancouver, WAMany first-time parents have questions about when to bring their child to the dentist. Current recommendations say your child should see a dentist by his or her third birthday, but it’s never too soon to start thinking about it.

Family dentist Vancouver, WA Dr. Carl Futenma encourages parents to bring little ones in whenever you suspect something is not right with their oral health or dental development. If you see possible signs of tartar build-up or dark spots that may indicate tooth decay, this is also a good reason to make an appointment. If your child ever complains of a toothache, schedule a visit immediately, no matter what their age!

Is your child approaching the recommended age for a first trip to the dentist? Bring your child to Creative Smiles (dentist Vancouver, WA) and you’ll see what sets us apart from other practices. Call us at 360-573-3061 to make an appointment.

Early Visits Lessen Fear and Anxiety

While your child may not need a formal cleaning and routine check-up until the third birthday, earlier visits are a good way to pre-empt anxiety before the first formal visit. Kids sometimes become wary when they hear they have to go to the dentist. This is mostly due to fear of the unknown. The earlier you bring your child to the dentist, the easier it can be to allay these fears.

If your child already experiences anxiety over doctor appointments, due to getting vaccine shots, for example, you may want to bring your child to your dental visits occasionally. This can help establish that the dentist’s office is a safe and friendly place to be. This can make the first formal visit less fraught for some children.

What Happens at the First Dental Visit?

Always let us know if your child’s appointment is his first time seeing a dentist. We like to take extra special care to make sure first-timers feel safe and comfortable before we start. This sometimes involves giving them extra time to get used to procedures, letting them ask questions, and explaining the things we do.

During each child’s routine visit, we:

  1. Take x-rays, so we can see what’s going on below the surface.
  2. Examine the teeth and gums, to check for normal development.
  3. Check for cavities or soft spots that may develop into cavities.
  4. Perform a teeth cleaning, to remove plaque.
  5. Apply fluoride gel, to strengthen the teeth and prevent decay.
  6. Apply sealants, to provide a barrier against bacteria.
  7. Talk with the patient about brushing and flossing technique.
  8. Talk with the parent about oral hygiene, eating habits, and potential concerns.
  9. Schedule your next visit, about six months into the future.

Preventing Tooth Decay, from the First Tooth

Baby books don’t always cover oral health topics fully. It’s sometimes a surprise to parents that oral hygiene should start with the very first tooth! Baby teeth are smaller than adult teeth and have thinner enamel. This means that dental decay can worsen and spread faster than in adult teeth. Starting a regular daily oral hygiene routine at a young age is a great way to make sure your child’s first dental visits don’t involve toothaches or cavities.

Infants should have their teeth cleaned daily with a soft wet washcloth or a piece of gauze. Parents can move on to baby-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste (without fluoride) when the child is old enough to cooperate with a nightly brushing.

As your child becomes ready and willing to brush for himself, make sure to use only age-appropriate toothpastes, as children tend to swallow a lot more than they spit. Swallowing fluoride can be a health hazard as it is toxic in high doses and can cause staining in developing teeth. Also, be sure to brush his or her teeth for him regularly, to make sure the teeth are really getting clean.

When your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste reliably, you can switch to a fluoride-containing toothpaste—but be sure to continue to monitor brushing to ensure good habits. It’s a good idea for parents to monitor kids’ brushing habits until they are out of elementary school, in fact, even if it’s just once or twice a week.

Beyond brushing the teeth every day,

  • Don’t put a baby or toddler to bed with a bottle of milk, as this can lead to baby bottle decay. If they insist on a bottle at bed time, switch to water instead.
  • Avoid fruit juice, sodas, and sugary sweets.
  • Buy brushing and flossing tools that get your child excited about brushing.
  • A timer can help kids make sure they brush for a full two minutes every time.
  • Brush your own teeth in tandem with your child, occasionally, to model good brushing technique.
  • Use flossing picks made for children to help small hands learn how to floss between the teeth.

If your child is nearly three years old, visit Creative Smiles for a wonderful first dental visit. Call us at 360-573-3061 to make an appointment with Dr. Futenma, dentist Vancouver, WA .

A Family Dentist Can Provide Great Pediatric Care


family dentist
Do you have a little one (or two) who is approaching the age of his or her first dental visit?  Your first instinct may be to seek out a pediatric specialty dentist, but great pediatric care can be found with a general dentist, too.

Just as with all care providers, some general practitioners are great with kids, and some do better with adults and older kids. At Creative Smiles, Dr. Carl Futenma loves treating families, and provides friendly, appropriate care for every age and need. Call our office at 360-574-3061 for great pediatric dentistry in Vancouver, WA.

When To Bring Your Child to the Dentist

Children should visit the dentist for their first exam and cleaning by the third birthday. However, we encourage parents to bring toddlers in earlier for informal visits. This can  help them associate the dental office with positive experiences before their time comes. Bringing your two-year-old to watch your dental appointment, just once, can help normalize the things that happen in the dental chair and show a child that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

At your child’s first formal dental visit, we will take the time to make sure he or she feels comfortable before we ask to see the teeth. Adult attitudes toward dental visits are often shaped by early childhood encounters at the dentist. We aim to provide a relaxed and joyful experience, in the hopes that positive interactions will allay any potential stress or anxiety.

Children’s Unique Dental Needs

Oral hygiene should begin as soon as a child has teeth. Infants’ teeth can be cleaned with a wet washcloth, piece of gauze, or a specially designed infant toothbrush. In addition to cleaning the teeth, avoid any sugary or starchy foods near bedtime or nap time, which can create a decay-friendly acidic environment in the mouth.

Never put your child to bed with a bottle, as this can lead to early pediatric decay (sometimes called baby bottle decay).  Make sure he or she finishes the bottle at least a half an hour before bedtime. Try to use a pacifier or give a bottle with water in it, if your child likes to fall asleep with a bottle.

Make sure you use age-appropriate toothpaste with your child, as fluoride should not be used until a child is old enough to reliably spit out more toothpaste than he or she swallows. Swallowing too much fluoride can cause staining on the adult teeth growing in your child’s jaw, and may even cause poisoning. Use an age-appropriate toothpaste until you are confident he or she is spitting is all out.

Flossing should commence as soon as your child has enough teeth that they are pressed close together. If loose floss proves difficult for you or your child to wield, try some of the fun, flavored pre-loaded flossing picks made especially for small children.

Watch for Signs of Decay

Children’s teeth have thinner enamel than adult teeth, which means decay can develop and advance faster than in adult teeth. This is why we encourage parents to always monitor their child’s brushing and flossing habits. It’s even a good idea to brush the teeth yourself every now and then (up to age six or so) to make sure they are getting thoroughly cleaned. This also gives you the opportunity to notice if there are any discolored spots forming, which may indicate a cavity.

When a Pediatric Specialty Dentist Might Be Needed

Most children do fine with a family dentist, but there are some cases in which a specialist should be sought for pediatric dentistry. If your child has a medical condition that causes oral health problems, a specialist may have more experience with these cases. Additionally, early problems with tooth eruption are sometimes best understood by a pediatric specialist. Dr. Futenma provides appropriate care for all children, but he will be the first one to recommend a pediatric specialist if your child may be better served that way.

Call Creative Smiles to learn more about pediatric dentistry in Vancouver WA. Dr. Futenma and our dental staff love to see children have great first experiences at the dentist, and will give your children the attention and patience they deserve! Call 360-574-3061 to make an appointment.