February is Children’s Oral Health Month and to celebrate we compiled a list of frequently asked oral health questions from new parents. Embarking on the oral health journey with your child at an early age will ensure that they have built healthy habits for the rest of their life. Visiting the dentist can be fun for kids if they are set up for success.
1. What age should a child first visit the dentist?
While we recommend that children should visit a dentist for the first time approximately a year after the first tooth erupts, it is certainly at the discretion of the parent. Parents are the best to assess whether they feel their child is ready for the experience.
2. What happens during the first dental visit?
It really depends on the age of the child at the time of their first visit.
- For children one to two years old, they will sit in the chair with their parent or guardian while they chat with the dentist on some basic oral health education and tips. The dentist will do a quick scan of the mouth if possible, to see if there are any glaring issues.
- For children three to six years old, we spend time speaking with and educating the parent, a tooth polish and then an examination of the mouth for tooth decay. If tooth decay is spotted, an X-ray will be performed. Otherwise, no X-ray is required.
- For children seven and older, the appointment will be the same as an adult, however time is still spent educating the parents on common oral health conditions to look for and ways to build healthy habits with their child.
No matter the age, the first visit is capped off with a high five from our team to celebrate your child’s bravery!
3. How often should my child visit the dentist?
Children should visit the dentist every six to nine months like adults unless there are any specific issues that need to be treated.
4. My child is afraid of visiting the dentist. How can I reassure them?
We find the best way to get your child comfortable with the dentist is by exposing them to the experience beforehand so they can see the process as fun and exciting. Dr. Mark McCullough, chief dental officer for Capital Dentistry and a parent, advises to bring your child to your next dental appointment so they can get a feel for the process. “They will get to meet the hygienists, dentists and assistants to help ease their transition. You can even have them sit in the chair with you while you wait for your treatment to begin,” said Dr. McCullough.
5. When should a parent introduce teeth brushing? Any tips on creating that routine?
As soon as your child has a few teeth and can hold a children’s toothbrush, you should introduce the concept to them. At first, you can simply have your child handle the toothbrush, touch it and put it in their mouth to feel the texture. Then slowly start introducing the motion of brushing teeth. At this point, you should only be using water; toothpaste is not necessary. Have your child watch you brush your teeth while they play with their toothbrush, and gradually they will come to understand what they need to do as well.
6. My child hates brushing their teeth. How can I make this more fun?
“There are a lot of ways in which you can make the tooth brushing experience more fun for your child,” said Dr. Demetrius Dalios, dentist with Capital Dentistry and father of two young kids. “Introduce them to tooth brushing songs so they can create positive associations with it. You can also get them a colourful and unique step stool, so they feel more in control of their time at the sink. And lastly, themed toothbrushes with their favourite cartoon characters also helps create a positive association.”
7. Is regular toothpaste safe for kids or should I really use children’s toothpaste?
Use a fluoride-free toothpaste until you are certain your child will not swallow it. Once they are old enough not to swallow the toothpaste, you can move to a fluoride one. Kids love non-fluoride toothpaste because it foams a little and makes the process even more fun for them.
8. What happens if my child chips or breaks their baby teeth?
We always recommend that you consult your dentist first. Some breaks may need to be fixed as to not affect the future of their permanent teeth, other times we may advise to leave the tooth alone if it is nearing exfoliation. Most important is to keep an eye out for colour change in the tooth or ongoing pain.
9. My pacifier says “orthodontist approved.” Is this real or should I be concerned about my child using a pacifier?
Generally speaking, there are no issues with your child using a pacifier, but you should start weaning your child around two years old to not affect tooth eruption or jaw growth.
10. My child sucks their thumb. Will this cause issues later?
Yes, in fact thumb sucking can affect growth of the jaw and position of the teeth (open bites for example). There are oral appliances that can make thumb sucking uncomfortable thus helping to curb the habit.
A visit to your dentist will allow you the opportunity to ask all the questions you have in regard to your child’s oral health. Many of the dentists at Capital Dentistry love to meet new little patients and enjoy being a part of their first experience in a dental clinic.