Interview and Article by Margot de Boer
When you move to a new town or welcome your first baby, there’s a litany of doctors, service providers, caretakers and more to select and cross off your list of mom to-do’s. Perhaps finding a dentist is one? We spoke about this with one of our favorite pediatric dentists in town, Dr. Vali Mohammadi, D.M.D., who has been treating Scarsdale’s kids for over 16 years.
The first visit: when and why?
While there are some varying opinions out there on *exactly* when to book your child’s first dental visit, and this decision should be made in consultation with your pediatrician, Dr. Vali refers to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s guidelines. The AAPD aka the “big authority on little teeth” recommends having your little one go to the dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts or by age one.
The main reason for this may not be what you think! While it’s super important to make sure your child’s first dentist experience is a positive one, Dr. Vali says the first visit is primarily for you! The more education you as a parent can receive on how to properly (and realistically) care for your baby’s teeth, the better equipped you will be to prevent any issues as your child grows. Plus, establishing a “dental home” so you know where to go in case of an emergency can really come in handy; the last thing you want is to be desperately posting on Facebook in search of a dentist after your 16 month old backflips off your couch right onto her two front teeth.
At the first visit, your dentist can help you decide what kind of toothbrush, toothpaste and other decisions unique to your child are best for your family, in addition to going over proper oral hygiene practice, discussing any habits your child may have, and reviewing diet as it relates to cavities and overall oral health.
Choosing the right dentist for your child
Not surprisingly, Dr. Vali strongly recommends parents consider choosing a pediatric dentistry practice over a family dental office. In addition to being more experienced and trained specifically in the oral health needs of young patients, pediatric dentists receive tailored psychological training as well; they know how to interact with your kids and the right lingo to use. A good pediatric dentistry office will be designed to make kids comfortable from the moment they step in the door (think bright colors, toys, fun music, friendly receptionists). Beyond that, here are Dr. Vali’s tips for what to ask yourself when choosing a dentist:
How much training do they have? Look at where they went to school, did their residency, and also whether their training concentrations included a focus on pediatrics and dental trauma training
Are the location & hours convenient? Making it easy for yourself to book the appointment and get there is key to starting good habits, especially if you need a Saturday appointment.
Do the office and techniques feel modern and up-to-date with the latest technologies? Use your mom instinct on this one! Looking at pictures of the office on the website is a good start.
Do they take my insurance and is the office run smoothly (digital intake forms, insurance coordination, electronic communication etc)?
Preparing your child for the dentist – be cool!
So the appointment is booked – time to prep! Dr. Vali finds that first visits tend to go smoothly when parents help their child know what to expect and find a way to make going to the dentist feel like an exciting trip or adventure. Videos and books featuring a favorite character (Peppa Pig, Daniel Tiger, Paw Patrol, etc) visiting the dentist can be immensely helpful in getting kids psyched. Roleplaying with play dentist kits can also work wonders.
For extra apprehensive kiddos, Dr. Vali suggests asking your dentist if it’s okay to do a pre-appointment visit. And his best advice? Try to leave your own anxieties behind as kids can often sense it. One way to reduce your own stress is to make sure the office allows for you to complete all necessary paperwork and billing information prior to your appointment, so that the visit can be all about your child. At Dr. Vali’s office, all paperwork and billing can be easily completed via email or text in an iPhone or android-friendly format intended to save parents time and hassle. Dr. Vali also suggests that you book an appointment early in the morning, when kids are most refreshed and the dental office is least busy. If you know getting to a weekday appointment on time might be stressful for you due to work or schedule obligations, booking a Saturday slot for the first visit can be well worth it!
February happens to be National Children’s Dental Health Month, so it’s a great time to book that first dental appointment for your baby if you’ve been putting it off! And stay tuned for more insights from Dr. Vali in the coming months as we explore how to establish good hygiene habits, the topic of fluoride, thumbsucking and pacifiers, and the latest technology and viewpoints on tongue ties. Have a dental question you want Dr. Vali to weigh in on? Shoot us a DM and let us know!
Summerfield Pediatric Dentistry is located at 188 Summerfield Street in Scarsdale. Click here to learn more about Dr. Vali and his practice.