It is a good idea for your child’s first visit to the dentist to be just after their first birthday. This is not a formal checkup, (a one-year-old is unlikely to be very cooperative!) but more a general discussion with parents regarding teething and caring for a baby’s teeth at home.
Children should start having regular check-ups around the age of 2 or 3, by the time they have all their baby teeth. Children who have regular check-ups become comfortable with visiting the dentist and have fewer dental problems. They are also less likely to be afraid of dental treatments.
Dentists at our Chatswood clinic are dedicated to teaching your child how to keep their teeth for life!
Frequently one of our dentists and our senior dental assistant will visit childcare centres and preschools. The purpose of these visits is to inform and educate young children about the importance of oral care and preventive dentistry. These talks are very entertaining and engaging for the children and they get to dress up in gowns, masks, gloves, safety glasses and inspect and touch dental instruments such as mirrors, probes and drills (Mr Bumper). ‘Charlie Chompers’ is a great prop to show the children how to brush properly and they also get a turn at brushing ‘Charlie’s Chompers’ themselves. Apart from the dental demonstrations, they also talk about foods that are good and foods that are not so good for your teeth.
Scribbles & Giggles Daycare
If you are interested in one of our Chatswood dentists visiting a childcare, preschool or primary school that you are associated with, please contact us directly by calling (02) 8456 6789.
Are baby teeth really that important?
Your child’s first teeth are as important as their adult teeth. Called “primary” or “baby teeth,” they allow children to chew and speak properly and they also preserve the correct space in the gums for the permanent teeth. Daily care is required to prevent decay (caries). This is important because decay is faster in reaching the nerves of baby teeth than in adult teeth, and once there, can be very painful for children. Subsequent treatment is often distressing for all concerned, especially parents! Primary molars need to be in place until a child is 11 to 13 years old. If primary teeth are lost too early, the reserved space can be lost and bite distortions occur. Often this can result in serious orthodontic problems of the permanent teeth that require extensive and costly treatments.
Early Childhood Caries (ECC)
An infant or young child with decayed, missing or filled teeth, has “early childhood caries” (ECC). The main risk factors of ECC are:
- settling a baby to sleep with a bottle of milk, sweet flavoured milk, cordial, soft drink or fruit juice
- a high sugar diet with frequent snacking or “grazing”
- certain oral health problems, such as a dry mouth (caused by a lack of saliva) and mouth breathing
Recommendations to prevent ECC and promote children’s oral care:
- Don’t dip a dummy in honey or other sweet jams or syrups.
- Regular cleaning: Start cleaning teeth when teeth first appear with a facecloth and make it part of the daily routine. For toddlers, electric brushes can be a fun novelty and therefore encourages compliance. Use just a smear of children’s (low fluoride) toothpaste on the brush.
- Regular flossing: As about 80% of ECC occurs between the first and second molars, the most effective thing you can do to prevent decay in your child is to floss in this space. This often causes alarm amongst parents, however, there are only four spots to floss, one in each quadrant of the mouth. Various flossing gadgets can make the job a lot easier. Ask the dentist at your child’s check-up appointment for a demonstration.
- Encourage your children to drink water.
- Do not let babies sip juice all day, as this results in many sugar and acid “attacks” per day.
- Beware of “natural” confectionary, fruit strips, honey, “health” bars and even dried fruit, as they all contain concentrated sugars.
- A well balanced diet consisting of foods from the major food groups will offer the correct nutrition for your child. Keep high sugar snacks and treats to a minimum and try giving these after meals or all in one go, rather than throughout the day.
Once your child has all their baby teeth (usually around age 2 to 3), they should start having regular check-ups.
Children who attend the dentist on a regular basis become more comfortable with the environment and are more aware that dental visits are required throughout life.
During your child’s check-up, the dentist may:
- clean the teeth and apply a fluoride treatment to reduce the chance of decay by strengthening the teeth
- assess the risk of “early childhood caries” (ECC) or crooked teeth
- seal the grooves of the back teeth as they erupt with fissure sealants. The back teeth are known to be highly susceptible to decay
- take a diagnostic x-ray
- provide dental treatment
- screen for problems that may require referral to other dental or medical specialists. This is important as conditions such as mouth breathing and obstructive sleep apnoea are linked to dental growth patterns. They are often overlooked or treated too late or not at all, and can have far-reaching consequences. We can easily assess for these things and point you in the right direction.
Anxiety of dental visits
Understandably, some kids are frightened of seeing the dentist. So it’s important to present a positive image of dentists at home, rather than the usual negative stereotypes. Treating the appointment as a normal event rather than a “big deal” is also helpful. Try to make appointments at a time when your child will be less likely to be tired or irritable, usually in the morning.
A child who is taught and encouraged to look after their primary teeth is more likely to look after their permanent teeth and have an attractive smile.