The first dental appointment for a child can be scary–but it doesn’t have to be! The whole experience is new and the unknown can be frightening. Preparing a child for their first visit (or thereafter) is a great way to diffuse some of the anxiety. Explain what will happen: the dental hygienist will brush their teeth, put tooth vitamins on and the Dentist (or tooth doctor) will count their teeth and check to make sure they are healthy. If you experience any dental anxiety don’t talk about it with them and explain the dentist only in a positive way. Let them have their own experience. It is also a good idea to have them watch you or one of their sibling’s appointment first so they can see it doesn’t hurt and they get a prize at the end!
So, when is the best time to come in for your first visit? The ADHA recommends seeing a dentist by the age of one and we recommend at least by the age of 3. Often the first visit (or first few visits, depending on the age of the child) is a “happy visit” and consists of getting used to the office, meeting the staff and getting an exam and fluoride.
A good way to prepare children for brushing and flossing on their own is to assist them from when they are very little. Wipe out their mouth with a cloth from birth to clear out bacteria and to get the child used to the feeling. Start brushing and flossing as soon as any teeth show up using a small, soft-bristled tooth brush with water only (or training toothpaste without fluoride). By age two or three, children can typically be taught not to swallow the paste and fluoride toothpaste can be introduced.
At what age should kids be left to brush completely on their own? A good indicator is the ability to tie their own shoes and write in cursive. Until they can do this, they typically can’t manipulate the toothbrush and floss well enough to remove all the plaque in their mouth. This is typically around age 7-9. Let them brush first and then follow.
Electric toothbrushes are also a great option for children of any age! Sonicare now makes a child toothbrush that is gentler for ticklish younger gums (by about 40%) and removes significantly more plaque than a regular toothbrush! They come with two difference sizes of head of accomidate young children to teenagers! Click the toothbrush below to read more!
For addition information:
Springs Oral Health, Dr Matthew Burton