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Babies At The Dentist: Groups Push For More 'Happy Visits'

Ann Kenda
Dr. Misee Harris gives 1-year old Davi Spurlock her first dental exam.

One-year-old Davi Spurlock is a good sport about letting pediatric dentist Dr. Misee Harris examine her four baby teeth and bright pink gums for the first time.  After her exam, she placidly plays at brushing the teeth of a toy dinosaur.

Davi’s visit to Children’s Dental Clinic in Paragould is a “Happy Visit.” Dental groups use the term to encourage first visits in the most happy and stress-free of circumstances to allow children to have a positive introduction to oral health care.

Dr. Joe Castellano, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry in Chicago, says baby dental visits offer a number of health, social and financial benefits over a child’s lifetime.

“They don’t have a lot of dental issues because we’ve been following things," Castellano says. "They don’t develop the fear as much as someone who will show up and maybe have a mouth full of cavities."

Credit Dr. Misee Harris
Before and after pictures of a child's mouth being restored to good health.

The AAPD’s recent report titled The State of Little Teeth details the cost-effectiveness of early dental visits which can help prevent expensive trips to emergency rooms for  severe oral infection treatment.

During Davi's first exam, Dr. Harris assures her mom, Shanley Spurlock, that the wide spaces between the baby’s teeth are good news, since they’ll allow for more room and better placement of her permanent teeth.

Harris says when parents wait until their children are kindergarten age to make their first dental appointments, they are often shocked to learn their child already has hidden cavities and tooth decay. In fact, toothaches are now the most common cause of sick days from school, she says.

Dr. Misee Harris checks out 1-year-old Davi Spurlock's teeth and gums during her first dental visit

Spurlock says she sought early pediatric dental care for baby Davi to help her daughter avoid some of the dental problems she experienced as a young child.

Watch as Dr. Harris and baby Davi demonstrate a “Happy Visit.”



This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media, a statewide journalism collaboration among partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK, and community partners AETN, and the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. Arkansas Public Media’s series on oral health in Arkansas is funded through a grant from the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation, and with the support of its partner stations. You can learn more about Arkansas Public Media’s reporting at

Support for Arkansas Public Media's series on oral health in Arkansas comes from the Delta Dental of Arkansas Foundation, working to increase access to dental care in the state and improve the oral health of all Arkansans.


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