Toddlers & the Dentist
1) Necessity of taking a 2 year old with seemingly healthy teeth to an actual dentist?
2) Pros and cons of spending $500 a year to bump up our dental insurance to a family plan vs. just paying for the child’s dental visits out of pocket for a few years?
%@!* Dental Insurance
Ooh, good one. And one that — SURPRISE SURPRISE — I don’t have an easy, straightforward answer to. Probably because “easy, straightforward answers” simply do not exist in regards to anything parenting related and someday I will truly, finally accept this. But! Here goes:
1) Officially, the recommendations have changed, and it’s a big change: Both the American Academy of Pediatrics AND the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry now recommend that children visit a dentist BEFORE THEIR FIRST BIRTHDAY. Sometime between six and 12 months of age. I…I know. This is a big jump for those of us who were more used to the looser “between two and three YEARS of age” guideline.
Because that’s exactly what my pediatrician told me — dental visits weren’t even discussed until the two-year check-up, and it was presented more as a “give it a try, here’s a list of dentists we recommend.” I knew there was some talk and opinions about taking babies to the dentist as soon as the first tooth came in, but…I personally never really considered actually doing that. Taking even a six-month-old to the dentist sounds crazy to me, but…well, stuff changes. I guess that’s how our generation will all end up turning into our mother-in-laws someday, going on and on about how WE did things in OUR day and it was FINE and WHATEVER.
So my pediatrician’s (now-outdated) guidance was that first dental visits are more like practice runs to get small children used to the dentist…AND to possibly catch and correct any early problems/mistakes involving brushing technique, diet, bottle rot, thumbsucking, pacifiers, etc. The first visit typical doesn’t involve much hardcore cleaning or anything, but mostly a lot of talking. To you. Some of it will almost seem insulting (“TODDLERS SHOULD NOT DRINK SODA. AND THAT INCLUDES DIET SODA.”) but some of it will be helpful, like tips for ensuring that the nightly toothbrushing/wrangling is as effective as possible. If your child has the vocabulary and communication skills, a good pediatric dentist can very effectively explain the whole WHY we brush our teeth, in addition to making it a nice little game to get those ugly germs, brusha brusha brusha, etc.
Of course, Noah was absolutely USELESS at the dentist at two years old, thanks to his many sensory issues. Of which oral hypersensitivity was a BIIIIIG one. And he simply could not process anything about the visit — the chair, the lights, the PAPER BIB OMFG. Our first visit was a complete disaster and both our pede AND dentist (one recommended to us for special-needs kids) advised that we just go ahead and wait a little while longer before attempting a cleaning — like three, or even four, provided we employed a good brushing technique, used a flouride toothpaste (as opposed to the little baby training mouth cleaners), and promised not to give him like, sugar water and gummy bears for lunch. So dental visits got bumped way down our priority list until we felt there was a chance he could sit through one without screaming and panicking and being thoroughly FREAKING TRAUMATIZED. And his teeth are fine.
Ezra also hasn’t seen the dentist yet, and I didn’t realize that was now WRONG and SHAMEFUL because again, my pediatrician never brought it up until his two-year visit. He didn’t have his last set of molars yet, and I was told it was probably fine to wait for those, if I wanted. So I did. They came in last month, all sneaky-like, with barely any teething symptoms. I’m not so worried about Ezra, and I will take him to a pediatric dentist fairly soon-ish, because I actually think he’ll get something out of the visit, and might even enjoy it.
Basically, I’m still not entirely convinced that these very early dental visits are ESSENTIAL and doom and decay will surely result by waiting a little longer, but they aren’t a bad idea, at all. I think it depends on your kid and your dentist, their ability to communicate with each other, your child’s diet and your general sense of your own competence when it comes to taking care of their teeth. But I’d say it’s usually worth a try, just to be on the safe side, and on that note…
2) We originally did not put our kids on our dental insurance, until my nephew — at age three, with an otherwise perfectly healthy set of teeth — mysteriously and suddenly developed a raging abscess in his gums. It was VERY serious, like, risk-to-his-BRAIN-if-left-untreated serious. His very first visit to the dentist ended up being done under emergency circumstances.
My poor sister, of course, blamed herself for also delaying dental check-ups until he was older, or for doing something “wrong” with toothbrushing at home, but the dentist assured that it had NOTHING to do with that. It was just one of those weird, crazy things that happen. To this day, we don’t really know why it happened. But after quite a few visits to various dentists and specialists, my nephew’s teeth are not only JUST FINE, he actually LOVES going to the dentist.
However, we put our kids on our dental insurance after that. So far, we haven’t had to use it, thank goodness, but I have a real sense of RESPECT for the fact that kids’ oral heath is just as much of a ticking time bomb as the rest of their little bodies. Beyond check-ups and cavities, toddlers can (and do) knock teeth out and need oral surgery, for example. Not to mention the really weird stuff, like abscesses or adult teeth erupting prematurely or dental issues stemming from other health problems or complications. Dental insurance is just like any insurance gamble — you may not need it, you HOPE you won’t need it, but when something unexpected happens and the dentist hands you a $1,500 bill, you might be pretty darn happy to have it.
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