First Dental Check-Up: When Should It Be, What To Expect And How To Prepare Your Child
When do i need to take my child for their first dental check-up?
We have a saying at MyToothDoctor: “Two is too late!”
We believe that it is critical to establish your child’s “dental home” early and recommend that they are seen by the time they are one or no later than 6 months after their first tooth erupts.
This may seem early, but this helps to familiarise your child with the dental environment and take the fear out of seeing the dentist. This allows them to experience various aspects of the dental surgery from a young age including “riding” up and down in the dental chair, playing with the air syringe and even making balloons out of the gloves!
By seeing them regularly, it ensures that things are picked up early and treated in a timely manner if needed and that appointments can be kept short and fun.
What should i expect in the first visit?
We like to keep the first visit short and straightforward – let’s be honest, children don’t have a very long attention span! You can expect the following:
- General assessment where we provide you with a tailored program of preventative home care (brushing, flossing and fluoride).
- A decay (caries) risk assessment, information on finger, thumb and pacifier/dummy habits and advice on preventing injuries to the mouth, diet counselling and what to expect as your child grows.
- Introduction to the dental surgery, including going for a “ride” in the dental chair!
- Something special for your little one – because every child deserves a toy for being brave!
Unless necessary, we usually do not begin cleaning your child’s teeth in the dental chair until they are around 3 years of age. Here we introduce them to our “toothbrush” and brush their teeth with our special fluoridated toothpaste and apply a concentrated topical fluoride gel.
How will you look in their mouth?
Depending on your child’s age and level of tolerance, we have different techniques we can use to assess their teeth. These include:
This technique is very effective for children up to the age of 18 months old. A knee-to-knee examination is where the parent/caregiver sits knee to knee with the dentist and the child’s head is lowered until it is resting on the dentists’ lap. This allows us to see in their mouth whilst your little one still feels close to you. This can also be very helpful if your child likes to wiggle around as you can gently hold their arms still.
Sitting on your lap in the dental chair
This is a great way to introduce your child to the dental chair whilst allowing them to still feel secure and to get used to other aspects of the surgery including the overhead light.
What if my child is not cooperative and won’t open their mouth?
We will never force your child’s mouth open but with gentle encouragement most children can be talked around. We find that kids will happily mimic their parents, so be prepared to make some silly noises, and faces to help us out if we need!
How can i prepare my child for the dentist?
There are many things you can do to help prepare your child before bringing them to see us – whether for the first time or for a follow-up appointment. This may include:
- Talking to your child about their upcoming visit – most kids are better being pre-warned than their first appointment being sprung on them.
- Taking them to your own dental appointments prior to their own so they can see what the dentist does, how you sit in the chair and see that you are okay. However, we wouldn’t recommend taking them to anything that might require extensive treatment – just a check-up and clean.
- Role playing with your child – it can be helpful to practice opening wide and saying “ahh” and showing them how to do it.
- Role playing with soft toys or dolls – allow your child to pretend to be the dentist or you can show them what a dentist does using their toys.
- Allow them to bring their special toy with them to their appointment – not only does this provide comfort but we can also use them to demonstrate and show them what’s going to happen to gain cooperation.
How regularly do i need to bring my child for dental check-ups?
We recommend that your child is seen every 6 months after their initial check-up. This is to ensure that if there are any changes to their oral health that we are picking up on it and are able to address it in a timely manner. This also allows your child regular exposure to the dental environment with a higher level of compliance as they get older.
I am scared of the dentist – how can i make sure my child isn’t?
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for many people to have had bad experiences at the dentist, and this be very easily transferred to our children.
Rest assured that we understand this fear and anxiety and will do everything we can to make you, and your child, feel comfortable during their dental visit.
Here are some of our tips for trying to make sure your child does not become fearful about seeing the dentist:
- Don’t use the dentist as a threat – many parents are guilty of this at some point. Our child doesn’t want to brush their teeth so we tell them that they will get holes and that will mean a trip to the dentist. The problem is that this sets up the experience to be a negative one before they may have even been for their first check-up. Instead, it’s important to talk positively about the experience before and after. Try to get them excited about the prospect of “riding” the dental chair, having their teeth counted or getting a special present for being well behaved.
- Remember that these days dentists have a lot of good techniques to minimise anxiety and pain. Most children who need treatment that might require being numbed up don’t even realise they’ve had to have a local anaesthetic injection! Excessively talking about things like needles or drills is not helpful. Whilst it’s important to prepare them for what they may experience, we have developed ways of explaining different aspects of treatment to your child that they will understand and won’t make them scared.
- Don’t be embarrassed to call us before your child’s dental appointment to let us know of your fears and reservations. We are very understanding and will try to alleviate your fears prior to the appointment so that you feel comfortable with what to expect.
- Bring them to the dentist early and continue to attend their regular 6-monthly appointments. This will help to reduce the risk of your child needing major treatment as we are able to catch any changes to their teeth and intervene early.