As adults, many people have visions of Steve Martin in "Little Shop of Horrors" any time they even think about going to the dentist. Once they become parents, however, they have to overcome that fear and set their children on the right path to good oral health.
When should you schedule a child's first dentist appointment?
Believe it or not, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child's first visit to the dentist occur either around the time of their first birthday or when their first tooth appears, whichever comes first. While this may seem early, there are two reasons why it is important. Your family dentist will make sure that everything is developing properly in your child's mouth, and it helps your child get accustomed to the dentist office at an early age.
What happens at a child's dentist appointment?
At your child's very first appointment, your dentist is looking for any early signs of decay and will likely talk to you about how to brush your child's gums and tiny teeth (hint: use a soft cloth). As your child ages, the dentist will also count how many teeth have erupted in order to ensure that everything is happening on a typical time table.
Depending on your child's age and temperament, they can sit alone in the big chair or on your lap.
What tricks can help calm a child before a dental exam?
Children sometimes get nervous when they experience new things, like a visit to the dentist. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to stay calm. If you are nervous, chances are your child will pick up on that and get nervous in return.
You can also try to role play before the appointment. Buy play dental tools from a local toy store or online retailer and 'play dentist' with your child. You can see who can open their mouth the biggest and count each other's teeth.
How often should a child see a dentist and/or a hygienist?
Your child should continue seeing the dentist every six months or so for regular check-ups to ensure good oral health. Once they reach the age of three, you can talk to your dentist about adding regular visits to the hygienist for cleanings as well.
How can you help a cavity-prone child in between dental visits?
Cavities are a fact of life that many cannot avoid. Some children, however, are more prone to cavities than others. If you find that your child seems to have an abnormal number of cavities, try these tips to help combat the problem:
- Brushing. If you have your child brush twice a day, see if you can squeeze in a third time after lunch or when they come home from school. You can also make a game out of increasing the amount of time that they spend brushing their teeth each day by using a stopwatch app on your phone.
- Flossing. If you haven't yet, teach your child how to floss. It may be hard for little hands to master, but you can buy the single-use flossing sticks, which might be easier for your child to handle.
- Detection Tabs. Talk to your dentist about using detection tabs. These chewable tabs show you and your child areas on the teeth that have not been properly cleaned.
- Mouthwash. Try using a mouthwash approved for use with children. Like fluoride toothpaste, it cannot be swallowed, but the squeeze-action bottle and fun flavors can make brushing fun.
- Extra Cleanings. While your dental insurance may only pay for two cleanings a year, once every six months, there is nothing stopping you from paying for four, quarterly cleanings out of pocket to help fight tooth decay.
- Fluoride Coating. Talk to your dentist about applying a fluoride coating on your child's teeth to fight tartar buildup and to fend off cavities in between dental exams.
Taking a little extra time and effort can help a cavity-prone child learn good dental hygiene habits and protect their teeth. For more information, contact a dental office like Family Dentistry Of Woodstock.