All parents want the best for their kids. When they are babies, we can be so protective of their health and basic needs. Routine visits to the family doctor are highly recommended to make sure everything is going great. What tends to be a bit more uncertain for parents is when we need to bring our children to their first dental visit.
According to the CDA (Canadian Dental Association), by 1 year of age, or 6 months after the first tooth grows in, we should be bringing our children in for their first dental exam.
As Dental Hygienists, we have a lot of conversations with patients on this subject. Patients who are pregnant are asking questions about when their children should come have their first dental visit, and what exactly will happen at this appointment.
First dental visit
Some concerns parents have about bringing their kids to their first dental visit are:
- They will cry and be scared
- They won’t be able to sit still for the appointment
- They don’t have that many teeth to check
- They are too young
- Parents are nervous about the visit
Here are a few examples of things that you can do to help prepare your infants and toddlers for their first dental visit:
- Read stories that have pictures so they can see what the dental rooms look like and what materials we use for their dental exam (mirror, dental chair, dental light, mask, gloves, etc.)
- Use stuffed animals to play dentist
- Use positive words and explanations to describe what will happen during their visit
- Bring their favorite comfort item during their appointment (stuffed animal, blanket, toy,etc.)
- As a Dental Hygienist, I always feel that it is important to re-assure parents that this is a new experience for their little one, and that their kids will surprise them on how well they will actually do at their first dental visit.
It is very important for parents not to pass on their dental phobias to their kids. This is something we don’t even realize that we’re doing. Kids can pick up on our stress in the tone of our voice and our body language, so it’s important to be as calm and relaxed as possible and view it as a fun adventure for them. You will be blown away with how well it can go.
There are times that crying may be a factor and they will not want to sit in the dental chair. It is important not to force your infant or toddler to open their mouth if they are scared. It just means they are not ready, and will have to come back and try again. By the second or third visit, the dental environment will become more familiar and comfortable for them.
Your child’s dental exam
Our main goal is to ease your child slowly into the dental exam process. Nothing good ever comes out of rushing things. With a little bit of fun conversation and show and tell of our tools, your little one will gradually warm up to us. Having either mom or dad sitting on the dental chair with your child on your lap makes them feel more comfortable and secure in knowing you are close by.
Your Dental Hygienist or Dentist will also go over your child’s health history and any dental concerns that you may have with you.
Before we even look inside your child’s mouth, we take the time to look at their face and neck for any abnormal swelling or lesions on the skin to rule out any health issues. When looking in their mouth, we check their gums to make sure there is no infection, and to make sure their baby teeth are growing in properly. We also check to see if your child can lift and stick their tongue out easily and make sure that they are not tongue tied.
At the end of the exam, your Dental Hygienist will review different techniques of brushing and flossing and dietary advice to help your child decrease their chances of having dental cavities.
To make the appointment complete, we always let them choose a cute little surprise out of our treasure chest and a new toothbrush just for them! Their smile is priceless!
It is very important to have your children come routinely for their dental checkups. Your Dentist and Dental Hygienist will recommend a frequency schedule that will fit your child’s dental needs.
High risk foods and drinks that can contribute to cavities
- Juice and soda
- Chewy bars (granola, cereal, chocolate, dried fruits)
- Candy , cookies, chips, chocolate
- Carbohydrates (Breads, cereals, pastas)
- Milk and yogurt products are a great source of calcium, but can also be a risk factor forcavities if not brushed off regularly, so be sure to take special care to brush their teeth afterwards
This list is a generalized guideline. The main thing to be careful of is the amount of sugar in your child’s diet. Throughout the day our toddlers are snacking non-stop, so it’s important to have them drink a lot of water during their snack time to help neutralize their mouth and wash away the food particles that get stuck on their teeth. Juices are on top of the list of being extremely acidic and should be avoided as much as possible. If they do have the occasional juice, make sure to dilute it with water so it’s less acidic (1:1 ratio).
Any foods that leave a sticky film on the teeth (as mentioned above), take a bit more effort to remove from the teeth.
Below are some resources that can provide you with more detailed information for your child’s dental hygiene needs and first dental experience.
Centre Dentaire Pierrefonds is a family dental practice that welcomes children. Please feel free to contact us at 514-624-1935 to set up your child’s first dental visit.