Your child’s first dental visit – When is the right time and how to prepare
There are many milestones in a child’s life, particularly in the early stages. The first time they can crawl or walk, their first laugh or word, their first tooth or what about the first time they lose a tooth?
What happens when that first tooth comes through? With this first tooth (and the many, many more teeth that follow) comes the responsibility for you and your child to look after it both at home and with the help of a dental professional.
The Australian Dental Association have outlined that children’s tooth decay is the most common chronic disease and that it is also responsible for the most hospital admissions for any preventable disease, in children aged 5-9 years old. Yes! That’s right, preventable.
The development of good oral health habits and healthy eating practices during childhood is fundamental to the prevention of common oral diseases that can affect quality of life.
Without being too dramatic – poor oral health can lead to disturbances in eating, sleeping, socialising and overall growth and development.
When should my child visit the dentist?
One of the many questions that we get asked everyday whilst working with parents and children is “when is the right time or age for my child to see the dentist?” and the answer is – by the time they get their first tooth or at 12 months (whichever comes first!). We understand that for some people this may seem way too early – but there are so many great reasons why we think children should visit a dentist at 12 months old.
Here are 5 awesome ones!
1. Early experiences help form great long-term habits
By introducing the concept of what to expect in a dental appointment early, any pre-conceived ideas about the dentist can be addressed to ensure a positive dental experience from a young age. This helps to build a healthy relationship between your child and the dental setting.
For children that have not been to a dental clinic, and especially those that have misconceived beliefs or frightening experiences at the dentist, introducing them to a new concept and understanding of the dental setting in a safe and nurturing environment allows them to use their critical thinking and form positive connections of belonging with the people around them and its setting. They can become familiar with the surgery, the bright lights, the reclining dental chair and most of all, familiarise themselves with our amazing dental team.
Decay or early childhood caries affects approximately 40% of children under the age of 6. Decay is a multi-factorial disease meaning it is a result of multiple factors. It is important to identify which factors may put your child at risk of dental decay and understand ways to prevent them. An appointment at 12 months allows our team to identify these risk factors and recommend any needed strategies early on to help minimise these risks.
3. Avoiding pain and the need for emergency visits
We don’t want your child’s first dental visit to be an emergency appointment (if it is, that’s ok!) however pain from decayed teeth or a knock to the tooth during weekend sports or those unforeseen falls is unfortunately very common and happens all too often. Having a familiar place to call upon when this happens always makes the unpleasant experience of pain or trauma an easier one when your child needs to visit the dentist. Your child is more likely to feel safe with someone they’ve seen before.
4. Toothbrushing habits
As soon as that first little tooth pops up, it is important to start cleaning it twice daily. Now, as easy as this sounds – some children don’t appreciate having things prodding around in their mouth. Seeing a dental professional can help to alleviate some of the minor stresses that may come from toothbrushing. If the toothbrush doesn’t work for your little one, then wiping the tooth with a a soft cloth works just as well.
5. A review of their developing dentition
Are their teeth coming through in the right order? An important point to remember is that we are usually more concerned about the sequence of eruption of teeth rather than timing. Similarly, to how some kids grow faster than others, the teeth are no different, they may just take a little longer to come through.
If your child is over 12 months and still has not had their first trip the dentist, fear not as we are happy to see your child at any age because as the saying goes ‘Better late than never’.
What to expect at your child’s first dental visit?
Depending on their age, your child’s first dental visit at True Smiles Dental will primarily be to help with acclimatising to the dental environment to ensure they are as comfortable as possible. Each child’s first appointment can be different and we strive to tailor the appointment based off how your child responds to the new experience.
After taking a full medical history for your child, your dental professional may want to discuss topics such as:
– Brushing habits and technique along with ways to help motivate brushing
– Toothbrushes and toothpastes recommended for your child
– A check of the gums to make sure they are healthy
– Decay risk and ways to prevent it
– Dental habits including use of a dummy or thumb sucking
– Sleep habits: does your child grind, snore or breathe through their mouth during sleep?
– Nutritional advice to ensure healthy teeth
– Their developing bite and what to expect with their dental development
If your child is comfortable, we may also include a full mouth polishing/cleaning as well to aid in familiarisation of dental instruments.
How to prepare your child for their first dental visit
Reading books about going to the dentist can be helpful or even ‘playing’ dentist at home. You can prepare your child by letting them know that the dentist is there to help look after their teeth and count how many there are. It is not necessary to go into too much detail as the team at True Smiles Dental are well-trained to be able to speak with children in a calming and friendly nature. We will always explain who we are and what we are trying to do at the same level that your child can relate to and understand.
There are some great resources out there which can help familiarise your child with the world of dentistry. Here are a few resources that we recommend:
– We’re going to the dentist: Going for a Check up by Marion Cocklico
– Peppa Pig: Dentist Trip
– Max goes to the Dentist by Adria Klein
– ‘’Toothsavers brushing game’’ app (available on iOS and android)
Playing dentist at home can also help prepare your child for their first visit. Parents can have young children lay in their laps and use a toothbrush to count their teeth. This can help children familiarise themselves with what to expect during their visit.
What not to do before your child’s dental visit
We understand that there may be some level of anxiety for parents when bringing their child in for their first dental visit. Sometimes it’s hard to predict how something new can unfold – no matter how hard we prepare for something. Rest assured – your child is in the best hands with the experienced team at True Smiles Dental.
It’s important to maintain a positive attitude and vibe so that your child understands that visiting the dentist is not a scary feat.
Here are a few tips, words and lines to avoid if possible:
1. Telling your child ‘’if you don’t brush your teeth the dentist will have to use the drill or pull them all out’’ is unlikely to change long term daily habits and will most likely reinforce more retaliation and anxiety.
2. Discussing any personal bad experiences with your child is also not recommended as this can also further increase anxiety. Words such as ‘’needles’’, ‘’drill’’, ‘’pull’’ are not pleasant words for anyone whether we are old or young
3. Saying things like ‘’it won’t hurt’’ or ‘’the dentist won’t hurt you’’. Again, words like ‘hurt’ are associated with pain and fear.
4. Telling your child, they are ‘brave’. Bravery can occasionally be associated with doing something uncomfortable or scary.
5. Don’t be anxious yourself! Children often have very strong intuitions and senses about their surrounding environment. Stress is contagious so we don’t want to transpire that into your child before their first appointment.
At True Smiles Dental, we believe that forming a good experience at the dentist early on is important and a lifetime investment in their overall health. Our aim is to always make sure your little one has the best positive experience at the dentist. Who said visiting the dentist can’t be fun? Start your child off in the best way possible and get them onto a lifetime of good dental habits – book with us now on (02) 7228 7272 or visit www.truesmilesdental.com.au to book online!