Knee-to-Knee Pediatric Dental Exam: What Is It and How Is It Done?

The knee-to-knee pediatric dental exams allow professionals to examine a baby's teeth while they rest on their parent's lap. Learn more.
Knee-to-Knee Pediatric Dental Exam: What Is It and How Is It Done?
Vanesa Evangelina Buffa

Written and verified by the dentist Vanesa Evangelina Buffa.

Last update: 14 May, 2023

When it comes to caring for the mouth of small children, pediatric dentists have different techniques that facilitate the approach. The knee-to-knee pediatric dental exam is a strategy that helps make the office visit more comfortable and profitable. Find out what it is and when it’s necessary.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends taking babies to the dentist after their first tooth erupts and before their first birthday. During these first visits, it’s common to perform what’s also known as a lap exam.

What is a knee-to-knee pediatric dental exam?

The pediatric knee-to-knee pediatric dental exam is a technique that’s commonly used during babies’ first visits to the pediatric dentist. With this practice, the dentist can access the child’s mouth while the infant rests comfortably on the parent’s lap. This approach helps keep infants calm during the dental exam and also reduces fear and anxiety for their caregivers.

With this technique, parents also have the opportunity to observe their child’s oral cavity and learn how to care for it. Therefore, it’s also a maneuver that educates adults and teaches them how to take care of their children’s teeth.

A dentist carrying out a knee-to-knee pediatric dental exam on a baby girl.
Performing knee-to-knee pediatric dental examinations helps to generate a bond of trust between the child and the professional. With this, future checkups will be easier.

How pediatric knee-to-knee pediatric dental exams are performed

When performing a pediatric knee-to-knee dental exam, the dentist and the child’s parent should be seated facing each other. Here are the steps involved in this form of care:

  1. One parent sits in a chair and holds their child sitting facing them on their lap.
  2. The dentist sits facing the parent and places their knees in front of the caregiver’s knees.
  3. When the child is comfortable and ready, the parent will help the infant lie back until their head rests on the practitioner’s knees.
  4. The dentist will be able to perform the dental examination and inspect the infant’s mouth. The dentist will lift the lips and examine the tongue, gums, and teeth. From this position, the teeth can also be brushed, polished, flossed, or treated with fluoride.
  5. During the examination, the parent holds the child’s hands and provides security. This also prevents the child from grasping instruments that could injure them.

When knee-to-knee pediatric dental exams are performed

Knee-to-knee dental exams are used on young children up to about 2 years of age, although they can also be done on older patients. The procedure is usually quick, lasting no more than 15 minutes. During the procedure, jaw development, tooth eruption, and signs of cavities or other oral diseases are evaluated.

It’s also useful for some preventive practices, such as cleaning and fluoride treatments. If restorations or extractions are to be performed, caution should be exercised and the usefulness of the technique should be evaluated due to the risk of the baby swallowing or aspirating a foreign body.

During a pediatric knee-to-knee dental exam, the dentist performs a visual examination of the baby’s teeth, gums, and other tissues in the mouth.

Tips for preparing for a pediatric knee-to-knee dental exam

Before visiting the dentist with your baby, it’s important to be prepared. Keeping some of these tips in mind will help make the experience pleasant for you and your child:

  • Don’t project your own fears and anxiety onto your child. Try to be calm before and during the dental visit and trust the professional.
  • Get your baby used to dental hygiene from an early age. This way, your little one won’t feel uncomfortable when the professional examines or cleans their mouth.
  • Get an early appointment to avoid unnecessary waiting that increases anxiety.
  • Prepare your baby by telling them about the upcoming dental visit. Role-playing, songs, books, and videos are strategies that help little ones understand what happens in the dental office.
  • Play games and have fun with your little one sitting on your lap. If the knee-to-knee position used during the pediatric dental exam is already familiar to your child, it will feel more natural.
  • Never threaten or punish your child with a visit to the dentist, as they’ll have a negative image of the professional.
  • Children’s visits aren’t the same as adults’ visits. Sometimes it’s just a time to chat, play, or get acquainted with the dental office. Be patient, because even though it may seem like nothing is being done, these opportunities help your little ones have a better attitude when it comes to going to the dentist.

Trust your pediatric dentist

Knee-to-knee pediatric dental exams are a great way to reassure and accompany young children during their first dental visits. Trust your pediatric dentist’s suggestions to help you with your baby’s oral health care.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.