Training Dentists to Work With Children Under the Age of One

Dentist teaching little boy bruching teeth in dental clinicDental hygiene may seem like one of the most important things you, as a parent, can do to help your child later in life. Many dentists say that children should have their first dental exam by the time they turn one, but some experts believe that that’s too late.

In order to prevent a lifetime of dental health problems, guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry state that before a child turns one, they should have already had their first dental exam. If they don’t have it by the time they turn one, they need to have it when they get their first tooth.

Still, while the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises the age or tooth requirement, many dentists are actually hesitant to follow these guidelines.

The Sacramento Bee says that dentists’ fears have put a gap in dental care for toddlers and infants. Pamela Alston, who is a dentist and dental director of the Oakland-based Eastmont Wellness Center, spoke with the Sacramento Bee.

“People think that children are afraid of dentists, but really it’s that dentists are afraid of children,” Alston said.

The public health agencies of San Francisco and Alameda are launching a pilot program to help change the negative connotation of childhood dental care. This program will train dentists to treat and work with babies. About 70 dentists will learn how to work with babies and how to get them to cooperate during their visits. They will also teach the dentists to work with parents in combating tooth decay.

Even though babies and toddlers are at risk for tooth decay from drinking juices and other sugary drinks out of their bottles, children who come from low-income families are at even more of a risk for tooth decay. In fact, experts say children from low-income families require the greatest need for early oral exams.

To help those children, a portion of the revenue made from California’s tobacco tax will be used to help them get the dental care they require. The money will give dentists a 40% increase on top of the reimbursement that is already given for Denti-Cal patients services.

Those running the pilot program believe that on top of having the early dental exams, communicating with the child is the easiest way for a dentist to have a good relationship with them, no matter their age.

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