We all hate going to the dentist, nothing personal against the dentist but it inevitably leads to discomfort. Sure we’d love to just avoid it but it’s something that has to be done and in the case of children, the earlier the better.
For one American family, their lack of dental care for their 6 year old has landed them with criminal charges. According to a report by ABC news, the child had a frightening 14 abscesses due to neglect. The parents have been released on bail but face serious charges of child endangerment. Moral of the story? Keep a close eye on your little one’s teeth from the very beginning.
We’re going to look at everything you need to know about that first visit to the dentist, including some ideas for making it go as smoothly as possible.
When should you go?
Dental problems are surprisingly common in the 2 – 3 age group. According to Biodent SA, around 40% will have mild inflammation already. Worryingly, these teeth will need to last until around age 12 so it’s worth taking good care of them.
Generally, the earlier you can go the better. If you can go before there are any problems, a good relationship with the dentist has a far better chance. According to Dr Peter H. Timcke, a South African paediatric dentist, “It’s best to go before there is a problem, by age two or three.” In the U.S. guidelines are to visit by age one, regardless of how many teeth have come out. South African recommendations are more relaxed, the South African Paedodontic society says “ideally by age one” but definitely once all the teeth have come out it’s time to visit the dentist.
Experts recommend a visit every 6 months to keep on top of cavities and other problems. Often the sooner these are dealt with the less trauma for everyone involved.
The first visit: what happens
Your dentist will check on your child’s teeth thoroughly, and administer a cleaning and a polish. If necessary, a fluoride solution will be used. Sometimes x-rays are necessary. That first visit will also include advice on dental care and even teething advice. There are so many factors affecting the health of a little one’s teeth, from thumb sucking to the formula used. You will get solid advice on how to best care for these precious little teeth and your child will probably leave with some kind of memento like a sticker or balloon.
The first dental visit should not take long.
How to make it easier:
- Find a child friendly dentist: They have all kinds of neat tricks and tools for tear free dentistry. A Paediatric dentist is first prize.
- Watch some videos beforehand: There are plenty of fun YouTube videos that explain what happens at the dentist. A great way to prepare your child for the visit and what it might entail.
– A Child’s First Dentist Visit is a cute, simple animation suitable for young kids
– Another great simple video from SeeMore’s Playground
- Turn it into story time: There are plenty of children’s books that cover the subject of the first dentist visit. Make them part of the regular story time.
- Turn it into playtime: For young children you can play ‘dentist’ games. Use toilet paper to fashion a mask and use some plastic cutlery to role-play what will happen. The teddy bears, dog and cat can all play too.
- Anxiety is contagious so positivity is the key. You know how children seem to pick up your emotions to take cues about what will happen. Be aware that using words like pain and scared will be a clue that they may experience this. Don’t even introduce negative associations and your child won’t have a clue they are even supposed to be scared.
If you choose a child friendly dentist there will be some fun involved. There might be tooth tickles, silly games or even prizes. There may even be a special ride in the chair and a selection of viewing.
Some children have so much fun at the dentist that they beg to back again. With some preparation, perhaps you can have the same wonderful experience.
For a list of Paediatric dentists in South Africa, visit the Paedodontic society of S.A website.