The Ontario Dental Association recommends bringing children for their first visit to the dentist by the age of one year, or when the first teeth appear. If you have little ones (and I do – an infant and a pre-schooler), then you know that getting them to sit in any chair for any significant amount of time is a herculean feat if they are not having fun.
You may be thinking to yourself, I don’t really remember the last time I had fun at my dentist. But really, when was the last time you rode up and down on a dental chair for fun? Or wore cool sunglasses and watched a cartoon on a ceiling-mounted television? Or brought your favourite songs on an Ipod and listened while you had your teeth cleaned? Or played video games or coloured while waiting for your appointment? I think going to the dentist is lot of fun (and I am not just saying that because I am a dentist).
There are many toys, books and other resources that you can use to teach your children about how much fun it is to go to the dentist in advance of their first visit. Introduce these resources early so that the idea of going to the dentist is not a surprise to them when you are driving over for your first dental appointment. Some of my (and my daughter’s) favourites:
Books: Dora Show Me Your Smile by Christina Ricci;
Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer;
The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain;
Arthur’s Tooth by Mark Brown.
Toys: Playdoh Doctor Drill n’ Fill; Fisher Price Little People (Doctor Danielle and Dentist Dan)
Mobile Apps: Timor the Alligator Interactive Book (for Android and Apple) by XG Media; Sugar Bugs Games (Leapfrog LeapPad)
Just check out your local library (or google or youtube) for other fun resources to teach your children about going to the dentist or, just ask your dentist.
Before bringing your child for their first check-up, check with your dentist to find out if the office offers any kind of orientation. If the office allows it (which hopefully it does), bring your child in during an off-peak time to meet the dentist and/or hygienist, see the office, ride on the dental chair and learn about what to expect. Let the dental staff explain to your child what they are going to do at the appointment because they will use (and teach you) child-friendly and non-intimidating language to explain the check-up and cleaning.
If your child has an older sibling, consider bringing the younger sibling to watch the older child get a check-up and cleaning so that they can see how the “big-kids” do it. When it comes to booking the appointment, try to book a time that is best for your child e.g. not when they are hungry, after school or a vigorous activity or at a time when they would otherwise usually be napping. And finally, be enthusiastic when talking about the dentist! A first visit to the dentist is an exciting milestone for your child so be positive and SMILE!
As a parent, it’s one of the calls you hope never to receive – your child has been injured and suffered dental trauma. What should you do? First, begin by assessing whether your child needs to go to a hospital emergency room as a result of their injuries. If not, contact your dentist immediately. In the meanwhile, apply cold and pressure to the area as needed to deal with any bleeding or swelling in the mouth resulting from the injury.
As an aside, it is best to find out what kind of emergency, including after-hours services, your dentist offers at the time that you choose a dentist for your child (and know how to reach the office after hours) so that you are not scrambling to find a dentist to see your child after an injury has occurred.
If your child has injured their tongue, gums or lips, do not panic. Often these types of injuries bleed a lot but may look worse than they actually are. Your dentist will advise if stitches, x-rays or other follow-up is necessary. If your child has chipped or broken teeth, it may be possible to reattach the pieces, so bring them with you to the dentist if you can. Be aware that any trauma to baby teeth may result in the teeth discolouring after the accident. Your child may require follow-up to determine if the tooth’s nerve has been damaged.
If your child has loosened or knocked out baby teeth, unfortunately, it is unlikely that the dentist will attempt to put them back in (but adult teeth will eventually grow in). Your child should still see the dentist to ensure that no other dental injury has been suffered, as injuries to baby teeth can also affect the development of adult teeth.
If your child has knocked out an adult tooth, it may be possible to re-implant the tooth if you can get to your dentist quickly, ideally within two hours. If possible, transport the tooth by holding it in its socket in the mouth, or alternatively, in a container with cold milk. Avoid touching the end of the tooth that is usually embedded in the gums.
Finally, and most importantly, reassure your child that they will be ok so that they stay calm. Rest assured that their dentist will have them smiling again in no time!