Getting the Kids Interested in Dentistry
So, we were told a funny story by one of our Smiling Stars a couple of years ago. She and her daughter were on their way to our office for routine visits and check ups for the both of them. The daughter was skipping merrily and happily singing that she was going to see the dentist. A bystander raised his eyebrow and said to the mother incredulously, "Is that how they react to dental visits these days?"
We had a chuckle - but in all honestly, we do get a little bit of everything in our profession. We get the ones who sing on their way to see us. We get the children who draw happy pictures for us. But we also get the boys and girls who cry. And we also get the kids who refuse to open their mouths.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends that a child's first dental visit occurs within 6 months of the first tooth eruption and not to postpone this appointment past 1 year of age. At this age, children will see paediatric dentists because they are specially trained to work with the youngest dental patients. As they grow older and mature, they may continue with a paediatric dentist or switch over - usually to the same dentist as their parents.
Since we understand how difficult it can be to introduce dentistry to the young ones, we thought we'd give our top tips to make their experience the best that it can be - without the tears.
1) Seeing a paediatric dentist for as long as they need.
Some children mature quicker than others and some are slower. Either way, working at the pace of the child helps to ease them into proper oral health care and if they're not ready to switch over to a regular dentist, then stick to what they're comfortable with. And we do say 'what they're comfortable with' - because it's not just the dentist that they're used to, but the fun decor at a paediatric office as well as the goodie bags (which they might not receive from a general dentist).
Since we are a general practice, we often see children over 3 years old. If we see that they are scared or having a hard time, we refer out to keep anxiety to a minimum. It is important at their development stage that they feel comfortable at the dental office so that it promotes lifelong oral care. We've heard time and time again, adults avoiding the dentist because of a traumatic childhood experience - so we prefer to be proactive and foster positive experiences for these next generations of kids.
2) Establishing healthy oral hygiene routines - including home care and professional care
Not only do you want to introduce your young children to a paediatric dentist, but be sure to learn proper ways to care for your kids' teeth from them - this might involve you brushing your kids' teeth for them up to a certain age (again, this depends on individual maturity). The general rule-of-thumb is that once they have sufficient fine motor skills to tie their shoelaces, they are ready to brush and floss on their one.
Make sure to have routine hygiene visits (every six months or so) as well as oral hygiene instruction appointments every couple of years - so you can brush up (LOL, get it, 'brush up'? 😊) and fine-tune your technique - as well as to stay current with new recommendations. And if you're thinking that dentistry doesn't really change - it does! For example, dentists used to just recommend "brushing". Now, we're recommending brushing with soft-bristles because too many people were brushing with too much pressure - and with harder bristles - and were actually wearing away their teeth!
3) Modelling/mirroring behaviours
Sometimes, the fear of a parent is mirrored by their children. Regardless of your past experiences with dentists, make sure to stay calm, cool and collected when you're having dental treatment yourself - especially if your child is watching. Know that dentistry has improved since you were little - it's way less invasive and our professionals are trained to work gently.
But if a child sees their parent worrying about their dental work, they will pick up on it and be fearful of the dentist as well.