Medicaid Dental Care for Kids: Planning for your First Visit
Did you know every child should visit the dentist for the first time once they have a tooth popping up through their gums or by their first birthday? It might seem early but taking your child to a dentist that accepts Medicaid by their first birthday—or sooner if you have any concerns about their oral health—is one of the best things you can do to begin a lifetime of good dental care for your child. Here’s how to plan for your child’s first visit to a Medicaid dentist and what to expect at the visit.
How do I prepare my child for their first dental exam?
These early childhood visits with a Medicaid dentist who has experience working with children helps your child get comfortable with the office and begin to trust the dentist and staff.
Your child’s first visit will last about 30 to 45 minutes. It’s a good idea to schedule the dentist appointment to avoid naptime and your child’s known cranky times. You want your child well-rested and fed before the appointment.
Reading books or watching videos about going to the dentist and playing “go to the dentist” with children and their toys can help them understand what to expect and even get excited about their dentist appointment.
If you have dental anxieties yourself, be sure to keep those from your child. Letting your child bring a favorite stuffed toy to the appointment can also be helpful.
What to expect at your child’s first dental exam
Our goal is to make you and your child comfortable at the dental appointment. The sooner children get comfortable going to the dentist, the better chance there is that they will continue to get regular dental care throughout their life.
Learning about you and your child.
Our dental professionals want to get to know our patients and their parents. You will be asked questions about your child’s and family’s medical history, behavior issues and any concerns you might have. This helps us provide your child with the best care possible.
We will explain what we plan to do.
Before any examination or cleaning, we explain to you and your child our processes. We invite you to ask any questions you have.
Help your child get comfortable.
We work with parents to find the best way to get each child into their “comfort zone.” Some kiddos jump right up in the examination chair while others prefer to sit on mom’s lap. Others want us to give their favorite teddy bear a tooth cleaning and then they let us do the same for their teeth. Maybe putting in a cartoon to watch is the best way to put your child at ease. We will do our best to accommodate the comfort needs of each child.
Tips and oral health education.
We want to help you and your child prevent tooth decay. An important way of doing that is helping parents and kids understand what foods and drinks are healthy for teeth and how to properly brush, floss and care for teeth at home in between visits.
Cleaning and polishing teeth.
At the first visit, we will ask your child to put on sunglasses before we “tickle” their teeth to make them sparkle (polish them and remove any plaque, tartar and stains). We let children see and touch and listen to our instruments before we ever try putting them in their mouth. If your child resists, we’ll take it slow.
X-rays and exam by the Medicaid dentist.
The x-rays we take of your child’s mouth and teeth will help the Medicaid dentist determine if there are any cavities or other issues to address. The dentist will count and check your child’s teeth, jaws, bite, gums and other oral tissues to check growth and health. Sometimes, to avoid cavities, we may recommend preventative measures such as a fluoride treatment or sealants. If the dentist sees cavities or other issues that require follow-up treatment, we will explain the next steps.
One of the favorite parts of the visit for most kids is when they get a reward for coming to see us! (It’s one of our favorite parts, too!)
Medicaid dental services for kids
Since your child is covered under Medicaid, they receive two teeth cleanings per year and any treatments necessary to relieve pain or infections, restore teeth (such as fill a cavity) and maintain their dental health at zero cost to you. If you opt to do other services that aren’t medically necessary, you will have to pay for those services. If you have any questions about what is covered, please ask.
We are here to help your child get comfortable with the dentist and to answer any questions you or your child have about their teeth and oral health. At any time during your visit, please ask questions or share with us how we can make your child more comfortable.
IDEAS FOR THE PDF CHECKLIST
Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment
If your child has seen the dentist before, when was the last visit.
Download patient forms, fill them out and bring them to the appointment.
Write down a list of questions you have for the dentist about how to care for teeth or specific concerns you have about your child’s oral health (thumb sucking, pacifiers, etc.).
Gather your family’s medical history.
Bring any favorite toys or blankets to the appointment with you.