Tracey Stone: Your Child’s First Trip to the Dentist
Tracey Stone is a Health Visitor, and able to provide expert guidance on all things teething. Currently a registered practising Health Visitor in the community working with children and their families, Tracey also supports families in the online community with issues related to health and wellbeing. She is a qualified Paediatric Nurse with over 20 years’ experience and a Nurse Prescriber. She has also helped establish a respite service for Children with Special Needs.
The teething process and the assortment of signs and symptoms it brings is different for every child and their family. Ultimately the advice to look after them when they have arrived however, is the same across the board. Alongside careful brushing at home, a regular dental check-up is recommended as part of a healthy mouth. Although baby teeth aren’t permanent, looking after them well from the start sets firm foundations for when the permanent big teeth do arrive. Your little ones’ initial visit to the Dentist should be when their first tooth erupts through their gum, or by the time they turn one year old, whichever comes first.
For young babies and toddlers their early trips to see a dentist is really about building trust. They’ll begin to learn about dentists and get used to the environment in which they work. Their dentist may have a quick look in your child’s mouth, checking everything is heading in the right direction. Counting any teeth that are there, maybe a ride on the moving chair or touching a few of the dentists’ instruments are all possibilities for their appointment.
Good preparation is key for their initial visits, as children are more relaxed when they know what is going to happen. Tell them you are going and if they are old enough perhaps read a simple book explaining what a trip to the dentist means, stopping their amazing little imaginations going into overdrive! First impressions are vital, so it’s worthwhile spending time to get it right.
Children learn a lot in life by example, so take your little one with you when you go for a simple routine check up to see what is all about. If they have elder siblings who are relaxed about dentist appointments, then perhaps let them come at the same time, making it feel like a fun family outing. If you have a fear of the dentist, then perhaps let someone who doesn’t take your child, as your anxieties may pass over to your little one.
It’s not a good idea to make a trip to the dentist feel scary by saying things like “be brave”, “it won’t be nice” or “it’ll be over soon”, make it fun and use positive language – remember your child is not born believing dentists are frightening or monsters, let them go to the dentist with an open carefree happy heart. Dental staff also have a responsibility to make a child’s experience a positive one, so if you have any worries give them a ring before your child’s visits for a chat.
Dental health is for the whole family, so looking after teeth from an early age sets a shining example. Your child will grow up accepting that a dentist is a friendly doctor who helps them look after their teeth as a normal part of life. On-going regular 6 monthly check ups will spot problems quickly, hopefully preventing any painful unnecessary procedures for your child in the future.
Dentists can advise on issues that may affect teeth or speech problems, and keeping their mouths healthy as they grow. The Dental team will talk to you and your child about good oral hygiene, setting this as an important message to your child at a very young age. It also creates an opportunity for you to get answers from the experts about anything you are unsure or worried about.
If your child hasn’t started seeing the dentist at the recommended age, it’s never too late to make their first visit. It would be good to put this on the top of your ‘to do’ list, and get one booked in. NHS dental treatment is free for children until they are 18 years old, (and for mothers during pregnancy plus for 12 months after giving birth). The opportunity is there for every child to access a dentist to encourage and promote healthy teeth, gums and a happy smile.
General advice only, Tracey does not endorse the brand.