Introducing kids to the dentist
Introducing children to the dentist in a positive and comfortable way can set the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health habits. Here are a few ways to help children feel more comfortable and confident about going to the dentist:
- Start early: The Australian Dental Association recommends that a child’s first dental visit should occur once their first tooth comes through or when they turn one, whichever comes first.
- Play dentist at home: Use a toothbrush and a small mirror to show children how to brush their teeth and explain why it’s important. You can also pretend to be the dentist and count their teeth or check for cavities.
- Read books about going to the dentist: There are many children’s books that can help explain what happens during a dental visit and make the experience seem less intimidating.
- Bring a favorite toy: Allowing children to bring a favorite toy or stuffed animal to their dental appointment can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity.
- Use positive language: Avoid using negative words like “pain” or “hurt” when talking about the dentist. Instead, use positive language to describe the experience, such as “clean” and “healthy.”
- Schedule a meet and greet: If parents or family members have an upcoming appointment children can come along to meet the dentist or ask any questions they may have. This can help reduce anxiety and allow them to become familiar with the clinic environment.
Remember, the goal is to make the dental experience a positive one for children. By starting early and using these tips, you can help set them up for a lifetime of good oral health.
Cleaning your child’s teeth
Toothbrushing should commence as soon as your child starts to have teeth. Although it may be difficult early on, getting into a regular habit will help children develop a routine for when they are older.
There are different tools that you could use to clean children’s teeth early on, including:
- Damp cloths
- Small children’s toothbrush with a soft head
- A finger brush
- Teether with a brush
Try to gradually introduce the tools to your kids and make sure you are gentle on their soft gums.
Where teeth have erupted tightly together, flossing is an additional measure to aid in cleaning between teeth. Only introduce flossing when children are able to cooperate.
Tips on Toothpaste
There are many types of toothpaste available for children. Most importantly, the level of fluoride should be the deciding factor on which to choose
- Babies up to 18 months of age do not require toothpaste, as the risk of swallowing is high.
- From 18 months to 6 years old children should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that contains 500 ppm (parts per million) fluoride. Brushing should be performed under parent supervision to ensure toothpaste is spit out and not consumed.
- Children who are at a higher caries risk or who are not exposed to fluoridated water may consider using higher levels of fluoridated toothpaste in accordance with professional assessments and recommendations.
- From 6 years onward, children should use fluoridated toothpaste with equivalent fluoride levels to adult toothpaste – 1000 – 1500 ppm.
- Additional fluoride sources may be considered or recommended by your dental professional if your child is deemed high risk for decay.
Tips for enhancing the effects
- To enhance the efficacy of toothpaste, it is optimal for children and adults to spit out excess toothpaste without rinsing away the remaining residue.
Dummies & Thumb sucking
We’ve all heard the rumors of dummies and thumb sucking being bad for teeth, so when is the best time to stop the habit? Early in a child’s life, comforters such as dummies and thumb sucking may help with settling children especially as they sleep. However as children’s dentition and jaw bones develop, an interference such as dummies and thumbs may have a negative impact. They may cause a compromise in teeth positioning and development, breathing, speech development and swallowing.
Weaning off the dummy and thumb may be difficult, but it is better performed earlier rather than later. From around 18 months of age early signs of an open bite may already be noted. This is when a gap is present between upper and lower front teeth even when molars are biting fully together, and may be the result of dummy/ thumb sucking. If this habit is removed earlier there is a greater chance the open bite may self correct.
Ways to remove dummies include:
- Limiting exposure times to sleep settling only, and gradually cut from naps
- To replace with orthodontic ‘flatter’ shaped teats before weaning off
- To replace with alternate comforters
- Go cold turkey and persist!
When to consider braces or orthodontic treatment
Orthodontists are a type of dental specialist who deal with the alignment and positioning of teeth and jaws. A child may need orthodontic treatment if there are aesthetic or functional issues with their teeth or jaws. Possible indications that a child needs orthodontics include:
- Crooked teeth: If a child’s teeth appear crowded or crooked it can be difficult to properly clean and maintain, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems.
- Overbite or underbite: If a child’s upper or lower teeth protrude significantly beyond the other set of teeth, it can cause problems with biting and chewing, speech difficulties, and aesthetic concerns.
- Crossbite: A crossbite occurs when the upper and lower teeth do not properly align when biting down. This can lead to uneven wear of the teeth, enhanced risk of cracks, jaw pain, and other problems.
- Open bite: An open bite occurs when the upper and lower teeth do not meet when biting down. This can lead to speech difficulties, problems with chewing, and aesthetic concerns.
- Early or late loss of baby teeth: If a child loses their baby teeth too early or too late, it can affect the positioning and development of their permanent teeth and lead to alignment problems.
Bringing your children to dentists at a young age and across regular intervals allows issues to be detected early and allows for a broader range of treatment options to be available when needed. Often orthodontic problems are easier to correct when treated at a younger age and doing so may prevent more complex and costly issues. Certain bite conditions can be corrected from as young as 6 or 7 years old, while others may be monitored until a more ideal time such as during the child’s most active growth spurt, or when all adult teeth have erupted. Since every child’s conditions are different, seeking professional advice is important to know what options are best available for you.