If you have kids, you know they sometimes beg for everything from the coolest toy to staying up 5 more minutes. But let’s face it, your kids are probably not begging you to take them to the dentist. Still, regular dental checkups are essential for kids from a very early age. From toddlers through their teen years, children should see their dentist regularly to prevent dental problems and maintain good oral health.
Starting Dental Care Early
Good dental habits start early. Your child should have their first dental visit even before they have a full set of choppers. According to the American Dental Association, children should have a dental checkup by their first birthday.
Dental checkups from an early age set the stage for good dental habits and help your child develop a positive attitude about going to the dentist. If you start early, by the time your little one is starting first grade, he will be going to the dentist like a pro!
Early checkups also help prevent tooth decay. If your baby’s teeth are just going to fall out, you might wonder why the fuss? But cavities in baby teeth put your child at a higher risk of developing cavities in their permanent teeth.
Dental visits also educate parents on the proper way to care for their baby’s teeth. Your dentist can offer advice on typical dental concerns and provide tips on how to get your little ones to brush.
Common Dental Concerns
Got questions? Your dentist has answers. It’s common for parents to have questions about common dental issues. For example, along with their favorite stuffed animal and a nightlight, your little one may find thumb sucking comforting. But should you worry? Probably not.
Most kids outgrow thumb sucking by about age three or four when they no longer find it comforting. If your child is holding onto the habit a bit longer, you may want to talk to your dentist about your concerns.
Tooth decay may also be a concern for parents. It might be surprising, but about 25 percent of kids develop a cavity before kindergarten. Bacteria in your child’s mouth feeds off sugar, which is why you should avoid putting your baby or toddler to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. The fluid can pool in their mouth, and tooth decay can develop.
Trauma to the teeth can also be an issue. Wobbly toddlers can fall and bump their mouth, knocking a tooth loose. If you have a little athlete, they can also injure their teeth playing sports. You can’t prevent every fall your toddler takes or an elbow to the mouth on the playground. But the good news is when your child is playing sports, mouth guards can offer protection against broken teeth.
Mouth guards are needed if your child is involved in certain activities, such as hockey, football and lacrosse. Mouth guards may also be a good idea if your child participates in other activities that have a high fall risk including skateboarding and skiing.
Think about it. You would not send your pee wee football player out on the field without pads or your tee-ball player up to bat without a helmet. Consider a mouth guard an important part of your child’s sports gear. A mouth guard cushions any blows to the mouth that your child may get and may prevent a tooth from being damaged.
Healthy Habits for Good Dental Health
Your nine-year-old is probably not thinking about what they can do to maintain good dental health. So it’s up to you to help your child develop good dental habits that will last a lifetime.
You can start with proper brushing and flossing. When your kids are little, you’ll have to do it for them and gradually teach them how to brush. Consider getting a vibrating toothbrush or one that plays music so your kids know how long to brush.
As we all know, it’s best to avoid giving your kids too many sugary treats. Although an occasional piece of candy or a couple of cookies is not going to hurt, eating sugar filled foods all the time spells trouble for your child’s teeth. When your kids do have sugary foods or drinks, be sure they brush their teeth or rinse their mouth to wash the sugar away.
Secrets for a Good Dental Checkup for Your Kids
When the time rolls around for your kids to have a dental checkup, there are a few things you can do to make it go smoothly. Consider a few of the following suggestions:
Make it fun: Although a trip to the dentist is not quite like going to an amusement park, it can still be a positive experience for your kids. Talk about how they will get a new toothbrush, pick out flavored fluoride and select a prize from the toy box. Make it a good experience and praise your child for a job well done.
Keep your cool: If your child is freaking out when he hits the dental chair, don’t stress. Getting upset won’t help the situation. Try to avoid jumping up and leaving, which will only make it harder the next time around. Instead, talk calmly and reassuringly to your child and work together with your dentist to help him/her relax.
Check your anxiety at the door: Maybe you’re a little gun-shy when it comes to seeing the dentist. Your kids can pick up on your emotions. So if you start to sweat when you get to the dentist, your child may also get stressed. Take a few deep breaths and put your nerves aside.
Explain what they can expect: If you have little kids, use age- appropriate language they will understand. For example, a three-year-old is not going to understand details about cavities and tooth decay. Keep it simple. For school age kids, be honest about what they can expect without scaring them. For instance, you can explain a procedure without using the words drill, needle or hurt repeatedly, especially in the same sentence.
Remember, good oral health is important for overall wellbeing. Plus, those little pearly whites have to last your child a long time. Start your kids off right on the path to good dental health!