Introducing your child to the dentist

A lot of us dread going to the dentist. Our six monthly check-up often drags on into 12 months and we’re shuddering just thinking about it. But it’s important to avoid instilling that fear (yes, we can say it, fear) in our children. Teaching them to harbour no ill feelings towards the dentist and to take care of their teeth and oral hygiene are important factors that will affect them for life.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare your kids for their first few trips to the dentist.

Take them early…

You can take your child to the dentist as soon as they’re born. Obviously, they won’t have teeth for a while yet, but your dentist can advise on what to expect when your baby begins to cut teeth. Once your baby has a few teeth, your dentist can check that they’re all coming in correctly with no problems. Taking your child when they’re young can get them used to the sight and sounds in the place, avoiding any unpleasant surprises later in life.

…But don’t take them when you’re getting a root canal

Try to avoid having them with you when you’re getting something big done. If you’re nervous about the dentist your kids can pick up on that and copy the behaviour.

Don’t use bribery

Bribery can give them the idea that something is wrong, which is not something you want to associate with the dentist. Bribery also can involve a treat and while you’re trying to teach your children to take care of their teeth, you don’t want to go back on that by bribing them with something sugary. 

Avoid certain words

Try not to use certain words like ‘pain’, ‘scrape’, or ‘drill’ when talking about the dentist. These words can sound a bit scary in relation to our children’s mouths. Instead describe what the dentist will be doing like ‘looking for sugar spots’, ‘testing your smile’, or ‘cleaning your teeth’.

Try role play

Role play is a great help when preparing young children for new situations. Play ‘dentist’ with your child using a toothbrush and gently tap each tooth to give them an idea as to what the dentist will be doing. But make sure not to line up lots of different instruments, or use certain words as described above!

Brush early

When babies are young, around six or seven months old they won’t need to brush their teeth. They can be maintained just by wiping with a clean cloth to ensure no food residue remains on the surface of the teeth. Once the back molars are up, parents can use a children’s soft toothbrush to clean teeth without toothpaste. Toddlers may not be the most compliant at this age, but parents need to do this in order to establish a healthy oral hygiene routine in the child.

Use fluoride toothpaste

After the age of two, children can start using toothpaste to brush their teeth. Show them how by brushing your teeth with them. Start at the back molars and move the toothbrush in gentle circular motions through all the teeth. Encourage them to spit out the toothpaste after brushing, but not to rinse with water as this removes the benefit of the fluoride in the toothpaste. The fluoride will leave a residue helping to prevent tooth decay.

Children up to 16 years of age are entitled to state-funded dental service provided by salaried HSE dental staff.

For more information see the HSE website

Originally posted 2017-02-21 11:32:45.