Caring for those first baby teeth
As soon as those first little teeth start peeking through, it’s time to start thinking about protecting that cute toothy smile. We chat to paediatric dentist Dr Michael Chong from The Paediatric Dental Practice, to get the lowdown on caring for a baby’s teeth. What age should a child start going to the dentist? The Australian Dental Association recommends that a child’s first dental visit should occur within six months of their first tooth appearing, and no later than their first birthday. Although your child may not have many teeth yet, there are other things to check—from subtle tooth enamel defects (which may indicate future decay risk) through to looking at gums and tissue (which may affect feeding and cleaning). Why start visiting the dentist so early? Starting your dental record as soon as the first teeth erupt means we can assess the growth and development of your child’s teeth to identify any potential problems early. There can be variations in the timing or sequence of your child’s teeth eruption, which may be significant. Alternatively, past medical difficulties—during a mother’s pregnancy or a child’s birth or infancy—can affect the quality of a child’s tooth enamel and, in turn, their susceptibility to decay. If parents are aware of these features, then issues down the track can be prevented through oral hygiene maintenance and regular dental consultations. Why does it help to get to know the dentist before any treatment is needed? Early checks for young patients are meant to be casual, quick and non-threatening. First impressions last and we’ll do everything we can to make your child’s first dental visit a fun and positive experience. Subsequent visits are about gradually introducing new procedures to your child at their own pace. These may include taking photos and doing cleans or even minor treatment. It’s all aimed at gaining a positive experience for your child that we can build on. What tips do you have for preparing for your first visit? It’s normal for children to feel uncertain and a little scared in new surroundings. Here are some tips for how you can best prepare for your child’s first dental visit.
- Let your child know that visiting the dentist is normal and even mums and dads do it. If you’re going to your family dentist for a check-up, bring your child along to observe and get used to the dental environment. If an older sibling is visiting the dentist (assuming it’s an easy appointment and they’re a good role model), then the younger child can observe.
- Maintain a positive attitude, as children are experts at picking up on adult apprehension and will often act accordingly. Avoid mentioning words or phrases they could take negatively, such as ‘scared’, ‘it won’t be bad’, ‘needles’ or ‘blood’.
- Tell them you’ll be with them during their visit (you’re always welcome to accompany your child).
- Bring them to the dentist without younger siblings (if possible), as they can sometimes be a distraction to the child or parent. Appointments work better when a child is one on one with a parent, as we can gain more information and achieve more during the examination.