Tag Archives: when should children go to their first dental appointment

Is a Pediatric Dentist or General Dentist Better for a Special Needs Teen?


I recently became a foster parent to a teen with special needs. He just wants to be treated like everyone else, so I’m not sure which dentist to take him to. he’s not a child, so he may balk at a pediatric dentist, but I think they may be more patient with him. I’m worried he may be nervous if I take him to a general dentist’s office, and the staff may not be used to treating patients like him.

Which should I go to? Any advice?

Elizabeth, from Raleigh, NC


Hi Elizabeth,

Your worries are valid and echo a lot of concerns shared by parents of special needs children and teens.

Either dentist will be able to accommodate your teen. A pediatric dentist is a dentist who has had additional post-graduate education pertaining specifically to children’s oral needs. Be sure to check your prospective dentist’s credentials, and feel free to call the dentist’s office with questions. Most pediatric dental offices will treat toddlers or young children in addition to teens. Dr. Peck in Phoenix, AZ has dental tips for parents on her website for what parents can expect for children at the dentist.

However, you should involve him in the decision-making process. Ask him where he would like to go, and check websites together. To make him feel more comfortable, see if you can schedule a walk-through of the office prior to your appointment, so he knows what to expect. If you have a dentist’s appointment coming up, invite him along to show him its no big deal. Little things like these can make a big difference when it comes to your child’s treatment.

This blog post is brought to you by Phoenix pediatric dentist, Dr. Hillary Peck, of Peck Family Dentistry.

How to prepare for a child’s first dental appointment

We have scheduled our 5 year old son for his first dental visit. He is very shy and quite apprehensive to people he isn’t comfortable around. Are there are specific ways we can prepare him so he will not be afraid?

Thank you,

Dear Brooke,
It can definitely be stressful to take your child to the dentist for his or her first time. However, there are many things you can do to make the experience a fun and teachable one. The biggest thing to remember is that if you are stressed or anxious, he will feel that. Try not to say things like, “Don’t be afraid,” “It’s not scary,” or “It won’t hurt,” when you discuss the dental appointment. Be sure to remember that any negative dental experiences you have had are your experiences and not necessarily indicative of the type of experience he will have. Talk about the appointment like it is a natural thing for him to do, but show excitement about it being his first appointment, like you would his first haircut. It is a great idea to let him come along with you to one of your appointments, so he can become familiar with the office, the staff, and the routine. If this is not an option, or you are using a new office, call ahead to to find out what you can expect, or visit the office’s website, in order to talk with him about it. Read books about going to the dentist, or watch cartoons. You could also role play at home, first with you playing the dentist role, then switch and let your son be the dentist. But, again, the most important component in this is to build-up the experience as a positive one.

It is also a good idea to try to schedule a morning appointment, so he can be well-rested and have had a good breakfast beforehand. Be sure to arrive to your appointment somewhat early, to allow your son a chance to become used to the office. If, by chance, your office does not allow parents to accompany children to the exam room, you should be aware beforehand to decrease his anxiety about this. However, if you are able to go back, snap a photo of her being a good patient and cooperating.

Many offices give children toothbrushes and other goodies such as balloons or tokens when they are finished. If the dental office does not provide these, it’s a great idea to have a toothbrush and small toy or reward to give him at the end of the appointment. You just want to be sure to reinforce the good behavior.

Also, please remember, if the visit is not as positive as you hoped for, and practiced for, don’t fret. Many children take time to become comfortable to new places and things. It will be good to have already been in the office and provided the experience. Then, try again after a few months. Good luck!

This post is sponsored by the office of Phoenix pediatric dentist, Dr. Hillary Peck.

Should my child be seen for a painful loose tooth?

My elementary-aged son seems to be getting ready to lose his first tooth. He recently had his dental check-up with her pediatric dentist and we were told everything appeared good and normal. However, lately he has been complaining that it feels like one of his front two teeth is getting bigger. Then, he recently bit down on a carrot and immediately started to cry. There was blood and the tooth appeared to be out of place. I thought this might all be due to the tooth preparing to fall out, but am starting to second-guess myself. Is this normal? Should I have her seen?

Thank you,

Dear Bethany,

Each tooth that is lost fights of small battle in the process which leads to it falling out. First, the permanent, adult tooth pushes the baby tooth up. This may be what is causing him to feel like his tooth is increasing in size. Next, the ligaments, which help the tooth stay in place, start to expand and strain, like small rubber bands. At times, they tighten back to their original state, white other times, they stay stretched and snap. It is quite possible the tooth was in fact loose and the ligaments were already stretched. Then, when he bit into the carrot, the bite forced the tooth out of alignment and caused some of the ligaments to snap. In this situation, popsicles are great, as well as avoiding hard foods. The tissue around the tooth was likely traumatized, but it’s unlikely any long-term issues or serious damage were caused to the adult tooth coming in. If your son is not in any pain now, and the area seems to be healing on its own, it’s not crucial that he be seen. However, if you are not certain, or will feel better doing so, seeing a pediatric dentist would be a good idea. In a rare situation, additional damage could be causes, which could require dental intervention. But, it sounds like stocking up on soft foods and popsicles is a good idea…and prepare for a visit from the Tooth Fairy!

This post is sponsored by the office of Phoenix pediatric dentist, Dr. Hillary Peck.

Why are there white spots on my child’s teeth?

My son is a healthy, growing 14 month-old little boy. He is eating what he should be at this age and was breastfed for his first year. Recently, his front two teeth started to appear and have white spots on them. I haven’t seen this before and wondered if it is something I should have checked by a pediatric dentist, or mention it to my child’s pediatrician? I am not sure if this is something I should be concerned about, or if I should just let it be.

Thank you,

Dear Abby,

It is recommended by the American Dental Association that children visit a dentist for the first time after their first year of age and following the arrival of their first teeth. Typically, this is a quick visit to ensure that everything is developing as it should. It is not like that of an adult visit, which would normally include x-rays, a cleaning, and an exam. Most insurance companies cover this visit as a diagnostic visit and even have a  different billing code for it.

The spots you mention are somewhat concerning. Spots such as these are often times called decalcification spots, or signs of early decay.  They appear when minerals are removed from the tooth and it becomes exposed. Although this doesn’t mean she has a cavity, the exposure of the tooth can cause decay and lead to future cavities. It’s important that your child is seen by a pediatric dentist right away, as they may suggest fluoride treatments to strengthen the tooth and prevent future decay.

This decalcification is not typically seen in children this young and may be the cause of another issue. It’s important to take steps to care for your child’s teeth, but, at this point, it is too early to be seeing signs of decay. Therefore, it could be a problem with the development of your child’s teeth and you should work with your pediatric dentist, as well as your child’s doctor, to better determine the cause.

This post is sponsored by the office of Phoenix pediatric dentist, Dr. Hillary Peck.

Why won’t my daughter’s dentist use fluoride varnish?

Our previous pediatric dentist painted something on our daughter’s teeth, instead of using fluoride trays. We were thankful for this because it prevented the nasty taste that comes along with the trays.

Unfortunately, we had to change dental offices, for insurance reasons, and our new provider uses the trays. When I worriedly asked the hygienist, I was assured that this was a new foam version, with a better taste.

Well, my daughter hated it! She spat it out immediately and began crying hysterically.

When I asked about the painted version, used in our previous dental office, I was told it was “too new” and they don’t stock it. Was the painted version an experimental treatment used on my daughter? I am also now worried about how future dental visits will go.

Thank you,

Jen Smith

Dear Jen,

In regards to your question about the painted fluoride treatment, please rest assured that the varnish method is not experimental. It has been recommended by the American Academy of Dentists since 2006. It is the preferred method for children because it is easy to apply and tolerated much more positively by kids.

However, some dentists are resistant to change, even regarding something like fluoride varnish that has been successful for over a decade. The foam you are referring to is also safe, effective, and trusted, but the varnish is a more favorable option for children. It seems the choice to use the foam method is being made by personal preference, and your dentist should not have advised that it was “too new” or untrustworthy.

In regards to your question about your future dental visits being scared, please keep in mind that if you are fearful or nervous, your daughter will see this and feel the same. Dental trauma and anxiety can be difficult to overcome. If you are ever nervous or questioning a treatment that your child is receiving, try not to let this show on your face. If possible, ask to pause the treatment and speak to the provider in private, so as to not alarm your child. This will allow you to, hopefully, get your questions answered, and feel calm and confident going into the treatment, which will, in turn, help your child to feel the same and have a positive experience with her pediatric dentist.

This post is brought to you by the office of Phoenix pediatric dentist, Dr. Hillary Peck.

Should My Preschooler See A Pediatric Dentist for Teeth Grinding?

I planned on waiting until my daughter was in elementary school to bring her to the dentist. She is a little (lot) on the hyperactive side and I didn’t want to drive a dentist batty. However, I’m worried I need a change of plans. I went into her bedroom the other night to put some of her clothes away. She was sound asleep, but was grinding her teeth like crazy. Is this normal?

Adrianne L – Oregon


I have a mixed message for you. First, this is perfectly normal. Many children grind their teeth and many children outgrow it. But, here’s the mixed message. I still think you need to change your plan and take your daughter to a dentist.

I realize she’s an active child, but dentists who enjoy working with children are perfectly comfortable with that. They have means of helping children with their wiggles.

You want your daughter’s first experience with the dentist to be a pleasant one. If you wait until her elementary years (and here you’re assuming/wishing her hyperactive side will just fade away), she’s likely to develop a cavity and her first experience with the dentist will be much more scary than it needs to be.

This blog is brought to you by Drs. Kevin and Hillary Peck.