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Early Starts to Lifelong Dental Care

Did you know that if you take good care of your teeth, they will stay with you for life?

It's a common misconception that as we age, we're going to lose a tooth - or a couple - but that's simply not the case.

Proper dental care should start at an early age.  Before teeth come out, a parent can gently massage the gums for their infant with their finger to stimulate healthy growth (they sell finger covers (aka, gum massagers) for this very purpose).

When parents begin to see new teeth forming in their children's mouth, it is time to start brushing. And as the teeth grow and surfaces touch each other, flossing treatments are recommended at this stage.  As it does take some dexterity to brush and floss properly, the parent should be doing this for their child until they're older.  A general rule of thumb is that once the children can confidently tie their shoe laces, it's time to start transferring the responsibility of brushing and flossing to the children (and, well, it's a good idea to do a visual inspection and a smell test once they're finished to make sure they're *actually* caring for their teeth).  To make things fun, you can use plaque disclosing agents to ensure they get everything off their teeth. 

Also take the time to explain why brushing and flossing for 2 minutes each time is important so that they value their teeth and resist the urge to 'skip a day or two' or do a quick 10 second scrub. Try not to make threats about 'having to go to the dentist if you don't brush' - because that's where phobias start.  You'd want to aim for positive experiences and positive language like, 'brush them so your smile can shine bright' or play some happy music for the duration of the brushing.

And, set a good example.  Most children learn by imitation, so if the parents are fostering poor oral hygiene habits, they will pick up on this. Which means it's also a good idea for both parent and child to have an OHI - Oral Hygiene Instruction - appointment once the child can understand instruction.  Might as well learn the skills early in life, right?  You know, so they won't have to un-learn some poorer habits.

Children should be brought in to see the dentist for check ups if they have teeth.  Depending on how mature/anxious/nervous/worried they are, some will do well with a general dentist while others will prefer pediatric dentists.  It's recommended that you ease into the idea of appointments - perhaps by bringing the child to accompany and witness a parent's appointment first, before they have a check themselves.  Often, if the parent is calm, cool and collected, the children sees this and adopts a similar attitude toward dentists.

Fingers crossed, they won't have any serious issues and we should see them every 6 months or so for cleaning and polishing (frequency depends on the individual, of course).


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