By age two and a half, most children have cut all of their baby teeth, so toddlerhood is a great time to instil good dental habits. Baby teeth are important because they hold space for permanent teeth. Decay in baby teeth also increases the risk of decay in permanent teeth.
Although dentists now recommend that kids see a dentist for
the first time by their first birthday, twice-yearly dental check-ups and proper care at home are the keys to ensuring beautiful white teeth throughout childhood. For toddlers, however, the first dental visit can be a scary proposition. Strange instruments, loud noises, and new faces can upset even the most nonchalant 2-year-old. But with careful preparation (and plenty of prizes/presents), a first trip to the dentist can actually be fun.
Before You Go
- It is advisable make an appointment to tour the office with your child on one of your own Dental visits. Observe how the staff handles children, and make sure you’re comfortable with all procedures. Parents should be in the examining room with the child and a dentist should stop working if a child gets upset or nervous.
- Provide the dentist with a list of any medical conditions your child has or medications he takes. Keep your paediatrician’s phone number handy, too, in case the dentist needs additional health information.
- If your child has a sucking habit, be it thumb, pacifier, or bottle, let the dentist know, as it may affect your child’s teeth and jaw. Also, be aware that sleeping with a bottle of milk or juice can cause tooth decay. During sleep, liquids in the mouth – which are full of sugar and bacteria – pool around the teeth and erode them.
- Talk to your child about what’s going to happen. Practice brushing with your child beforehand, too, so she will be used to having a toothbrush in her mouth.
What to Expect
- To make sure your child feels comfortable, formally introduce him to the dentist on his first visit. A good children’s dentist will explain each step of the check-up with your child, show him the tools he’ll be using, and assure him that he can sit on Mommy’s or Daddy’s lap and stop any procedure if he’s nervous.
- Using models and an oversize brush, the dentist will show your child how to brush with your help. A dentist may also explain how the “cavity creeps come out at night to harm teeth” and how eating nutritious meals and drinking plenty of water keeps teeth healthy.
- Next, the dentist might polish your child’s teeth with a rotary toothbrush. Letting the child see and hear the brush before it’s placed in his mouth helps put him at ease.
- As with the other procedures he performs, the dentist will show your child how the “sucking straw” works before he uses it to remove extra toothpaste and saliva. As a final step, the dentist may apply a coat of topical fluoride. Research shows
that periodic fluoride treatments prevent decay. A child should not eat or drink for 30 minutes after a treatment.
- Presents/prizes are a wonderful way to get kids to think the dentist’s office is a fun place. You may want to let your child pick a present/prize during the cleaning if he seems nervous. But if he gets genuinely upset, he may not be ready for his first visit. In that case, cut it short and try again in a few months.
Good Habits at Home
Follow these tips to put your child on the road to a bright, healthy smile:
- Stop sucking habits as soon as possible. They
lead to potential tooth misalignment.
- Choose a soft, kid-size brush. Replace the brush
every three months. If the children are ill like having the flu or a cold, it
is advisable to replace the toothbrush more frequently.
- Use no more than a pea-size amount of toothpaste
on your child’s brush. This offers adequate fluoride and protection from
fluorosis, a damaging oral condition caused by over ingestion of fluoride.
- Help your toddler brush after breakfast and
before bed. We recommend that children under eight brush with parents’ help.
- Avoid starchy and sugary snacks. They stick to teeth and increase the risk of decay.
- If your child is unable to brush, rinse her mouth with water to wash away food particles and sugar.
- Talk to your dentist about the best fluoride treatment.
Dr Emil Jansen (Dentist Centurion)
PS. All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.