16/07/2021

Dr. Nicole Ann Lee: When should I bring my child to the dentist?

Dr Nicole Ann performing surgery in AnDental Clinic

Parents often ask whether it’s necessary for their child to go for regular dental treatments — the answer is yes! We advise that the very first dental visit of children to be done by the time they turn 1-year-old! Starting early is important for cultivating good dental habits to aid in the prevention of cavities and other related dental problems.

This is also advocated by the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, in that the first dental visit of every child is to be within 6 months from when the first tooth erupts and no later than the age of 1, more so when primary teeth erupt¹. 

During this introductory visit, we want to find out more about your child and his/her daily habits. Following the consultation is a dental examination, in which routine dental instruments and/or equipment might be introduced in an age-appropriate fashion. This helps give us a better idea on anything we may be able to pre-empt and to advise on further preventive care tailored specially for him/her. 

Dr Nicole giving a high 5 to a kid

Why do children have a need for paediatric dentistry? 

It is a common misconception that we should only visit the dentist when a problem (e.g. pain, infection, swelling, a bad fall) arises. However, this potentially leads to a less pleasant first visit for the child as there is a possibility of the need for more invasive treatment or a procedure of some sort when that happens. Ideally, we would very much prefer that the child is accustomed by the regular visits and comfortable in the dental environment before gradually easing them into readily accepting more complex procedures.

During your child’s dental appointment, we want them to feel that they are in a safe environment, so you will find that we usually steer away from adult terminology. Instead, we tend to use fun descriptive words that are easy to understand in order to engage your child so that these new experiences may be more well-accepted by them. Therefore, even at home, please try not to use words such as “scary”, “injection”, “drill”. 

How can I prepare my child for his/her first dental visit?

It may be useful to bring along your child’s regular toothbrush and toothpaste for the dental visit so that we can practice brushing with items that already belongs to him/her. Parents may practice brushing or checking their child’s teeth while the child is lying down on mom or dad’s lap, and this can even be done on the sofa or on the bed.

Dr Nicole making a pinky promise with a little girl

We especially love it when parents are eagerly involved in their child’s dental care! We want to help you ensure your children grow up healthy and with a beautiful smile, and are always pleased to answer any questions you may have on your child’s teeth and dental care habits — so do not be shy to ask during the visit. 

If you haven’t already done so, it is certainly not too late to bring your little one in for a fun-filled first dental visit!

How should my child be brushing his/her teeth? What toothbrush and toothpaste should we be using?

Parents should pick a small-sized soft-bristled toothbrush for your children’s baby teeth.

Ideally, parent(s) should be brushing for their child twice a day, everyday. At the bare minimum, an adult should be assisting the brushing of a child’s teeth every night. 

Most children under the age of 6 do not have sufficient dexterity to perform a good oral hygiene routine on their own.

Dr Nicole teaching little boy how to clean his teeth

Most young children do not like the strong mint taste that is commonly found in adult toothpaste. There are many brands in the market offering a variety of fruity flavours for children’s toothpastes. You may select any flavour that your child is comfortable and most importantly, willing to brush with. 

As parents, we always want what is best for our children. In this case, however, organic toothpaste may not always be the best option. This is because fluoride (which is typically lacking in the majority of organic toothpastes) helps prevent dental cavities and reverse early tooth decay lesions². 

Therefore, fluoridated toothpaste of appropriate concentrations should be introduced into your child’s oral hygiene routine as early as when the first few teeth erupt, in controlled amounts3. This is especially the case if your child is assessed to be of high dental decay risk and requires more intense protection, as advised by his/her paediatric dentist. Parents should be the ones dispensing the right amount of toothpaste for their children. As a general rule, simple smear of adequately fluoridated toothpaste should be used up to age 3, after which a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste used from 3- to 6-years-old or once your child is able to spit4,5. 

Of course, each precious little one is unique in his/her own way. 

Do not hesitate to speak to your paediatric dentist and find out what works specifically for your child!

References

  1. https://www.aapd.org/research/oral-health-policies--recommendations/Dental-home-2/
  2. Marinho, V. C., Higgins, J. P., Sheiham, A., & Logan, S. (2003). Fluoride toothpastes for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (1), CD002278. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD002278
  3. Walsh, T., Worthington, H. V., Glenny, A. M., Marinho, V. C., & Jeroncic, A. (2019). Fluoride toothpastes of different concentrations for preventing dental caries. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 3(3), CD007868. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD007868.pub3
  4. https://www.aapd.org/research/oral-health-policies--recommendations/early-childhood-caries-classifications-consequences-and-preventive-strategies/
  5. https://www.aapd.org/research/oral-health-policies--recommendations/fluoride-therapy/
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