boy in dental check-up

Teaching children about the importance of dental checkups

With some adults being scared of their dental practitioner, you can imagine how children must feel about going for a checkup. But the truth of the matter is that if you turn these appointments into a regular habit, sitting in that recliner chair saying “aah” as the tooth doctor inspects the insides of their mouths becomes a part of life.

When should you schedule your first appointment for your child?

As soon as their first tooth comes out, or around their first birthday – whichever comes sooner. Children mimic adult behaviour, so a keen focus on dental care should start early in childhood so that it remains a priority in their adult lives.

An education in oral care

Your child might question why they have to visit their dental practitioner so often, and it is essential that you give them more than a generic “to keep your teeth healthy”.

Educate them about the importance of brushing their teeth every day, which includes flossing and using mouthwash (however unpleasant its taste – kills bacteria that a toothbrush cannot reach).  Stress the importance of not eating too many sweets – a diet overloaded in sugar leads to cavities and eventual tooth decay.

A day in the life

Also, tell them what to expect on the day of your visit. It is recommended you arrive early, especially if your little one is anxious about the checkup. Reading books in the waiting room with soothing music playing in the background will calm their nerves.

Teach them about what a dentist does – a dental surgeon who takes care of the mouth, teeth, gums, who examines, diagnoses and provides treatment, and interpret x-rays. Be sure to stress the fact that the dental surgeon is friendly. There are many misconceptions out there that stress that dental and medical professionals are cold and clinical who poke, prod and hurt – which is not strictly true, and done as gently as possibly where poking and prodding proves necessary.

If your children are old enough and their teeth have fully formed, you might be referred to an orthodontist if their teeth need straightening with braces or a retainer.

If there are more significant problems at stake, all treatments and their outcomes are explained to you and your child, so you know what to expect in their next couple of sessions.

As an adult, you know how to brush your teeth effectively and for the recommended time. Children get distracted or easily bored, so having a dental practitioner stressing the importance of oral hygiene generally has more of an impact than a nagging parent and might have tips on making the task fun!

What “not-to-do”

boy with his tooth

As much of a loving parent as you are, you are not an expert on teeth. If your children have questions that require complicated answers, tell them to save them for the dentist’s room. Dental professionals have the experience and know-how to answer hard questions in a non-threatening way.

Do not divulge your experiences, especially if they are not good ones. A parent often unintentionally grooms a child’s fear of the dentist.

Do not reward going to the dentist with sugary treats, which defeats the purpose of the visit altogether.

Having one’s teeth routinely checked should start at an early age – keep your kid’s milk teeth healthy, so they do not face more severe issues as grown-ups.