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Parents often wonder "When should I bring my child to the dentist for the first time?" A good rule of thumb is to have one of us at Tuart Hill Dental check your child's mouth by around 12 months of age. At this stage we will just take a quick look, generally while you are visiting us having your own check up.
In the first few years of a child's life we don't expect to be doing too much in the way of dental treatment, but just getting your child into the routine of opening their mouth for the dentist, and being relaxed while doing, so will help to prevent future issues and anxiety later. One of the hardest scenarios for us is when your child has their very first dental visit because they are having pain or discomfort - this often means that they are not only confronted by a unknown environment (which can be stressful enough for little ones!) but that they may also associate visits to the dental clinic with pain and fear. This can make future treatment more difficult and lead to dental anxiety.
There are many tips and tricks we use at Tuart Hill Dental to make dental visits easy for your children, and also some things that you can do as a parent or carer to help, and I will discuss some below.
Please let us know if you want to bring your child along when you have your next check up. We can then be ready to come out to the waiting room and meet them without our masks and gloves on. Often masks and gloves can be scary for little children and so it is better if we are not wearing them the first time they meet the dentist.
Often the dental surgery and chair can initially be intimidating to little ones. My first "look" in a child's mouth is often done in the waiting room. I will typically ask Mum or Dad to hold or cuddle the little one while I try to get a smile or a giggle out of them - I then take a quick look at their teeth while their mouth is open and give them lots of praise along the way.
Using words like "drill" and "suction" can be confronting to young children. We understand (and really appreciate!) when parents try to inform their children about what is going to happen at the dentist and prepare them, but sometimes this can also backfire. We have a lot of imaginative names for the dental equipment that we use when we see kids, and we like to use these terms to keep the kids relaxed and happy. For example when we use the polishing cleaner we call it a "Buzzy Bee" and we call the suction either a "Straw" or "Vaccum Cleaner". These names are still descriptive yet non confronting.
The frequency of visits will change as your child gets older. Initially we will try to have a quick look, then progress onto some tooth brushing approximately once per year. As the child grows up we will see them more often - in the same way adults come every 6 months for a check up. At around age 6 it is good for us to be seeing your child twice a year, as this is when their adult teeth will start erupting and we want to ensure they are as healthy as possible.
These are just some tidbits of helpful information to help us to look after your kids teeth and keep them happy during their visits. There are many more ways in which we can make dental treatment for children stress free for both kids and parents. Please don't hesitate to call us if you have specific concerns regarding your kids visits and we will do everything we can to work with you and your child to put a smile on everyone's face!
Dr Mary Todd