When To Start Taking Your Child To The Dentist

Cries and poos. Dribbles and tantrums. Although the first year of parenting is challenging, it’s the little moments between giggles and gurgles where you feel content. Your little human is healthy and happy… and it makes all the craziness worthwhile. While we may not be able to help with midnight feeds and nappy runs, we can provide the right information about when you should start taking your child to the dentist and how to look after their oral health. Knowing that you have set them up on this positive path will give you peace of mind as they grow.

Here’s what you need to know, from the perspective of a Dentist.

 

When to book in your child’s first dental appointment 

As a general rule of thumb, bring your child in for their first checkup around the time their first tooth comes through, or close to their first birthday (whichever comes first). At the absolute latest, they should come in before their second birthday. Alternatively, if you have any concerns don’t hesitate to book an appointment, a good dentist will be happy to see them at any stage.

 

First appointment: What to expect at your child’s first checkup 

First appointments usually run for about 30 mins. Here your dentist will check any teeth that have come through as well as their gums, jaw, bite and general oral health and will also talk you through how to look after their oral health at home. If your child has had some teeth come through, our dentist might give them a gentle clean and polish to remove any plaque buildup. A good dentist will take some time to get to know your child in order to make their experience (and future check-ups) as calm and easy as possible. 

 

Repeat visits: How often they should come back and why it’s important

In most cases, your child should come back every six months for a checkup. These regular dental appointments are so important in these early years because they:

  • Help children build comfortable relationships with their dentists and feel less nervous at future appointments (more on “Dentophobia” later in this post)

  • Spot any early, hard to notice, signs of tooth decay

  • Identify any potential problem areas and treat them before they become a larger issue

  • Prevent tooth decay and check for good oral hygiene

  • Guide parents on how to encourage their children to take responsibility for their oral health (such as how to make brushing teeth fun)

  • Give accurate advice rather than using Dr. Google. 

 

These early appointments ultimately help your children build good dental habits that they will carry with them into their adult years.

How to look after your child’s oral health

The best kind of dental care is preventative dental care. That’s why it’s much easier to instill good oral hygiene habits early on, than fix bigger problems later. Here’s how to get your child’s oral health off to the best start: 

  1. Even before their teeth come through, gently clean their gums with a clean, damp cloth to prevent infection and keep them healthy

  2. When their first tooth comes through, begin brushing their teeth with a small children’s toothbrush and a dab of children’s toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice. Continue gently using a damp cloth on their gums until most of their teeth come through

  3. When they turn three (3), you can increase the toothpaste to a pea-sized amount, unless instructed earlier by your dentist

  4. Try to avoid giving a bottle right before bed or naps to prevent the risk of “baby bottle tooth decay.” When we sleep (adults and children alike), we don’t produce much saliva. This means any sugar from milk or juice will linger on your child’s teeth and can cause decay  

  5. Encourage your child to drink lots of water. Not only is water good for their oral (and overall) health, but most tap water also contains fluoride which helps to strengthen and protect their teeth

  6. Limit sugary snacks and save them for treats instead

  7. Help your littlies brush their teeth twice daily until they’re around 8 years old.

Common dental problems for children

Here is a list of common dental problems to be aware of (but not worry about) however please keep in mind that most dental problems can be completely avoided if you make the effort to prioritise dental hygiene. The experience of teaching your child these good habits should bring about some fun and silly moments together!

  • Tooth decay
    To prevent tooth decay, practice good brushing habits with your child by brushing their teeth twice a day, or as recommended by your dentist

  • Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
    Caused by the constant exposure of your child’s teeth to sugary liquids, like milk, fruit juice, and baby formula. To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, avoid giving your little ones a bottle right before bed, and before teeth come through, clean their gums with a damp cloth

  • Bad Breath
    Bad breath is usually caused by normal bacteria found in the mouth and is usually no cause for concern. But if you find the bad breath doesn’t go away after cleaning their mouth, it can be a sign of other issues at play. Gum problems, poor oral hygiene, and dry mouths can be the hidden cause and while good oral care is key to prevent it, it’s best to bring them in for a check-up if you have any concerns

  • Sensitive Teeth
    Children’s enamel is much thinner than adults and can easily be worn down by plaque and acid, causing extra sensitive teeth. If your child has weakened or damaged enamel, your dentist can provide an easy solution with the application of a sealant on the damaged areas.  

How to make dental appointments more comfortable for children

Dentist appointments don’t need to be a trigger for tears or tantrums, there’s plenty you can do to make checkups more comfortable and positive for your little ones as they toddle into the “tricky twos”. Here’s how: 

  1. Ensure they come regularly so the dentist office feels familiar to them 

  2. Bring your child earlier in the day, or after a nap, so they aren’t tired

  3. Bring them a little early so they do not feel rushed and can build fun memories in the office 

  4. Get them excited for their appointments:

    • Read them storybooks (or make up stories) about going to the dentist

    • Talk positively about dental checkups in front of and to your child 

    • Play ‘make-believe’ dentist with them 

    • Children love to copy their parents, so if possible, bring them along to some of your own dental checkups. It will help them know what to expect and will make them more excited for their own turn, to be just like mum or dad.  

While there’s no right way to look after your child’s health, it’s best to look towards professionals for advice and take those extra “words of wisdom” from well-meaning friends and acquaintances with a grain of salt. When it comes to their oral health, it’s best to bring your child in for their first appointment around the time their first tooth comes through or near their first birthday. After the first appointment, continue to bring them back every 6 months to make sure that their teeth come through correctly, and that they develop happy, healthy smiles. Our dentists are parents themselves and will work to make the process as easy and relaxed as possible for your child and help you navigate early oral care to get your little ones off to the best start. 

 

Claremont Dental makes it easy to navigate your child through growing teeth, straightening teeth to even removing teeth later down the line. For every stage in life, we take care of you. Please get in touch with us for any questions you might have. 


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