Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Why First Tooth, First Visit?

It used to be that women smoked during their pregnancies, that infants were carried on a parent’s lap in a moving car, and that children rode bikes without helmets.  All of these sound like stories that my parents told me, but why don’t we do those things anymore? It can’t just be because a parent told us not to, or that we “know better” now.  And it’s unlikely the anti-tobacco lobby is out-campaigning Big Tobacco to reduce smoking during pregnancy, it is more likely the reduction of pre-term delivery, surrounding complications and decrease risk of SIDS. The CDC states car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants by 71%[1] and bicycle helmets reduce the risk of brain injury from a moderate speed crash from 99% to less than 10%[2], amazing! Even with all these statistics, the simple answers to why we don’t do these things anymore are all pretty similar – making a change in our behaviour results in better health outcomes for our offspring.

The problem is that even though the recommendations are pretty clear on car seat use for example, what is the probability that using a car seat will help your child? If you never get in an accident and are gentle in your actions, again the risks are low, but how can you predict that you will never be in a car accident? You simply cannot, statistics are against you, unless you’re a gambler, but I am not encouraging leaving your child’s well being to chance. The changes in recommendations must be considered on a population level, not at the individual level.

What does all of this have to do with the title, Why First Tooth, First Visit?  Just because historically children were not seen by a dentist until the age of three or older does not mean it is in the child’s best interest. Early visits, at the time of a child’s first tooth can help provide the tools and resources to families that lead to a lifetime of good oral health. Just like the investment of a car seat, early dental visits can help give you the information required to lead your children to safety. Think of the well child visits that a paediatrician or family doctor recommends, and add one more wellness check to the list: When you see your child’s first tooth, your child should see a dentist.

Dr. Daniel Charland
BMSc, DDS, MS, Cert. Ped. Dent., FRCD(C)

Dr. Daniel is a certified Pediatric Dentist, he is the owner of Burlington Pediatric Dentistry and Adjunct Professor at University of The Pacific.

[1]  Durbin, D. R. (2011). Technical report—Child passenger safetyPediatrics, 127(4). Advance online publication. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0215
[2] Cripton, P.A.et al. (2014) .  Bicycle helmets are highly effective at preventing head injury during head impact: head-form accelerations and injury criteria for helmeted and unhelmeted impacts. Accid Anal Prev.  Sep;70:1-7.