Starting early is the key! Introducing kids to the dental setting at a young age is important to make the experience fun and exciting, for both the child and parent. Kids can be brought in at any age if you notice something that may be a problem, as it is best to get things checked early. Making them comfortable and relaxed is one of our top priorities as babies and small children can sometimes be anxious or agitated when being in a different environment. Dental professionals are well equipped to help make your baby or child’s visit comfortable and gentle. Don’t be concerned or embarrassed if your child does get upset during their visit. It happens, and the dental team is trained for these situations.
How to be proactive?
Bringing your child with you while you get a dental check-up, or bringing them in for their own visit is a great way to start. Very young children may prefer to sit on their parent’s lap or have the parent sit beside them while they get their teeth counted and checked. By letting a child sit and have a ride in the dental chair we aim to make it a positive experience for all. If your child watches you have a simple dental check-up (provided you are calm and relaxed!) then this can go a long way to helping them feel assured they are in a safe environment.
Do children need to get their teeth checked?
Like adults’ children can be prone to teeth and mouth issues. The concept of “it’s just their baby teeth it doesn’t matter” is not helpful as there can be significant risk of pain and infection. High levels of tooth decay in children can often continue into adulthood.
Some of their favourite sweet treats like candies and soft drinks can do more harm than we realise and it can be very hard to say “no”. We will help you find alternatives and ways to help you prevent decay, abscesses, and toothaches. Children use their teeth just as much as we do for eating, speech development, and smiling. Having these teeth checked early and routinely can set a child up for an excellent future of good oral hygiene.
You will also expect at a child’s dental visit to gain some important tailored advice on preventing tooth decay, dietary advice, and habits including thumb sucking. There can be useful tips to help make toothbrushing less of an arm-wrestling match at home. What you and your family are doing at home to take care of your child’s teeth is most important, so we want to be able to arm you with the best tools we can.
When else should a child be brought in for a dental appointment?
Accidents happen! Aside from a regular 6 monthly check-up, a child can be brought in when they are in pain or trauma has occurred. Pain and trauma in a child can be confronting for both the parent and child. Your child may fall when playing, or an undetected problem like decay can result in your child having pain or infection. The team will go to great lengths to treat your child in a calm and caring way. Sometimes a specialist referral is required to best manage the situation. As a general rule, children who have had good routine dental visits will be much calmer if they need to have dental work done for trauma or tooth ache. As always, prevention and early detection of decay is the best way to minimise problems.
What can I do at home to plan for future visits?
Making a positive association with the dental clinic is a great way to lay the groundwork for good experiences. Parents, family, and guardians have a crucial role in forming a child’s beliefs that can help to determine whether they see something as a happy and enjoyable experience. Being aware of the terminology you use with a child and not using the dental clinic as a threat is important. Threatening a child to clean their teeth otherwise, they will get pulled out, will not assist with changing a negative behaviour, instead, it will instill fear about the dentist. Telling a child about your own negative experiences or using frightening words like “needle”, “pulling teeth”, “Sore” and “drills” will only assist with increasing anxiety along with making a child scared and frightened.
Doing role play, at home, can be a fun and imaginative game to learn and understand what happens at the dental clinic before they go. Practice laying down, opening their mouth, and counting teeth are all fun things you can try. The tooth fairy is also fun to discuss with your child and your dental clinician.
Bringing children into a dental practice from a young age will help to make the dental setting a more familiar place and less confronting. Early prevention is key in stopping the further development of dental issues. If you have any questions about your child’s teeth or about their first visit do not hesitate to ask your dental team.