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Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist

The brushing routine is down pat. You found the perfect toothbrush brand. You’ve got his favourite paste. Now it’s time to make sure all that brushing, rinsing and spitting at home is doing its job.

Why go to the dentist so soon?

Most children have all their baby teeth by 30 months, but the Canadian Dental Association encourages parents to take their children to be assessed by a dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or by the time they reach their first birthday. If you didn’t go at year one, take them to see a dentist by age two or three, when all the baby teeth have come in. These early visits will reassure you that the cleaning you are doing at home is working and also will identify problems early to prevent them from worsening. When your child gets accustomed to visiting the dentist regularly, it helps set up good dental hygiene for life.

Plan ahead

The fear of the unknown scares all of us. And for little ones, preparing them in advance keeps them from the shock of being placed in a frightening situation. Carla B. of Oakville, Ontario, knew it was time to get her nearly three-year-old son, David, to the dentist. “I’d been to see the dentist and when I came home I told David all about it. I told him that he was going to go in a few weeks.” As the appointment approached, they even read David a story about going to the dentist and spoke to him about what it was going to be about. “We changed the names so that he was the little boy in the story and the dentist was his actual dentist. The next morning he was excited to go.” Carla also consciously stepped back when the hygienist greeted David. “He always seems to relate to other adults better when we blend into the woodwork,” says Carla.

Getting to know you

A great dentist will introduce a young patient to all the gadgets and tools. Three-year-old David was given the grand tour and it made him feel less anxious. Carla says, “They explained everything to him and let him help with turning the equipment on. The dentist allowed him to hold ‘Mr. Slurpee’ (the suction tube). They involved him in the process and made everything fun! David was so relaxed his dentist was able to take x-rays.”

One down, many more to go

Dr. Keith Titley, Professor, Department of Paediatric Dentistry, University of Toronto says, “From the age of three, the best program for your child is twice-yearly dental inspections. Cavities are best repaired in their early stages when damage is minimal. Decay spreads more rapidly when it involves dentin, and if it is allowed to progress, may involve the nerve. As a result, your child may experience considerable pain and an abscess may develop, resulting in extraction of the tooth. “Your dentist may also suggest that two x-rays (called bitewing x-rays) be taken of the molar teeth if these teeth are tight together. These are common sites for decay to start.” At these check-up appointments, teeth will be cleaned and a topical fluoride preparation applied. These procedures help kids remain cavity-free. You and your dentist are partners; regular preventive dental care by your dentist plus home supervision of diets and sound oral hygiene ensure that many children and adults experience no dental decay in their lifetimes.

Checkup Checklist

Shop for your dentist

Your dentist might be wonderful with adults, but not with little children. Ask other parents to recommend their child’s dentist.

Prepare ahead of time

Explain in a matter-of-fact manner what to expect. Make it seem routine but also somewhat interesting.

Go to the appointment early

Allow enough time to greet the dentist and get comfortable in the surroundings. Bring along something to keep your child entertained in case the dentist is running behind.

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