When Should I Take My Child To The Dentist?

If parenting wasn’t busy enough, taking your kid to the dentist is another important job that should not be overlooked. Your child’s first dental visit should ideally be before they turn one.

This might seem pointless, however the foundations for a lifetime of good dental health start with the basics of appropriate advice and preventive care.

Things like night time bottle feeding, or discussion of dietary habits including juice, soft drink and sugar consumption as they become toddlers are essential to understanding and reducing the incidence of tooth decay.

So your child’s first trip to the dentist, and subsequent visits will promote great habits of oral hygiene and develop a strong family culture of self care. Also of great importance is minimising the likelihood of your child becoming fearful of the dentist in later life.

Imagine a scenario where your child’s first trip to the dentist is when they have a toothache or need significant work. Being in an unfamiliar environment with new faces, trying to do complex and difficult treatments is typically a high anxiety moment for the child and their parents. This is why many children, even as young as 2 years old require general anesthetic for dental work to be done by specialist paediatric dentists.

So what else happens at my child’s dental visits?

First impressions count! And depending how old your child is, doing some homework can really help. Books and youtube can be a useful resource with “first trip to the dentist” content able to give a nice intro as to what might happen.Just stay away from the Little Shop of Horrors and Mr Bean skits. Peppa pig won’t let you down!!!

Sam and Alice  – Oral Health Therapists, have passion

and additional training to treat children.

If your child is very young, it is unlikely that anything other than a quick look will be possible.

Sometimes this can be done with the child lying in the chair on the parents’ lap, and in many cases with the parent helping the dentist to achieve cooperation.

Having the child watch their parents have a check – up  is also a very useful way to build trust and confidence. The same concept applies to having the child check the teeth on their favourite stuffed toy.

Counting is something that children are familiar with, and your dentist will most definitely count your child’s teeth as part of the examination. This can also be something you can practice at home as it will prepare them for keeping their mouth open wide and allow us to get a good look.

Most dentists understand the importance of fun and rewards when it comes to getting kids around 3 years and older engaged in the appointment and happy to cooperate. And many parents have probably used some kind of bribery if their child is anxious, and dentists can usually pick up any cues that indicate if this an issue.

Dentists are also taught how to make glove balloons in the first week of dental school and are not allowed to graduate unless proficient in this art form.

If your child is content to have their teeth examined and counted, a clean can also be performed which is great for prevention as well as educating them on how to brush properly.

Where possible or indicated, X rays are taken to look for decay, and your child is monitored for any issues that might indicate the need for orthodontic treatment. By showing the child some of the basic equipment and getting them to hold items and press the chair buttons, we also build on their curiosity and help them associate trips to the dentist with fun and education. Many dental practices also have televisions on the ceiling as a nice means of distraction.

So what happens if my child needs more extensive work?

If your child needs a filling, or other dental work, there can often be a sense of distress and uncertainty, but having a foundation of trust will help to reduce these factors. How each child, parent and dentist deals with treating the issues will vary depending on many factors.

These include the child’s age, their level of anxiety or ability to cooperate and the extent of the work required.  The use of local anesthetic, happy gas or referral for treatment under General anesthetic may also be discussed depending on the specific circumstances.

As always, prevention is the key, so brushing twice a day ( after breakfast and before bed) and introducing flossing are integral to healthy smiles for life.


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