5 minute read
Good oral health habits start early and taking your child to the dentist from an early age can reinforce good habits. You shouldn’t wait until your child has a problem with their teeth before you take them to first see a dentist. Regular dental visits are important for helping kids to avoid tooth decay and laying the foundations for a lifetime of good oral health.
Read this guide to find out what to expect when you visit a children’s dentist and how parents and dentists can work together to keep kids’ smiles happier and healthier.
When should children see a dentist?
It’s generally recommended to take your child to the dentist within 6 months of getting their first tooth, or around their first birthday. Bringing children along to other family appointments can also help them get used to the practice surroundings.
Regular check-ups usually begin around a child’s second birthday. Most dentists recommend visiting every 6 months for the best chance of catching and treating oral health problems early, but this recommendation will be based on your child’s individual needs.
You should also take your child to the dentist any time you notice possible signs of problems in their mouth, such as:
- white or coloured patches on their teeth
- toothache or sensitivity to temperature
- loose teeth or cavities
- red, swollen or bleeding gums
- sore patches
- persistent bad breath or a bad taste
What happens when your child visits the dentist?
Early dental visits for young children are all about helping them to feel calm and relaxed in the practice surroundings. Keeping regular dental check-ups as part of a child’s routine can make them less likely to develop dental anxiety later in life.
When a child is relaxed in the dental chair, their dentist or oral health therapist can gently examine their teeth and gums. They’ll look out for any signs of problems such as tooth decay and check that your child’s teeth are developing normally.
Dentists don’t normally use x-rays for children under 6 years old unless they’re being treated for a serious problem. If they do spot any signs of an oral health or orthodontic issue, they will discuss treatment options with you so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your child.
How to look after kids’ teeth
Regular check-ups with a dentist can help your child to avoid common dental problems, but it’s also important to know how to take care of their teeth in between visits. This includes helping them with:
- Brushing and flossing every day
- Choosing healthy food and drink options
- Getting rid of bad habits
Brushing and flossing
Baby teeth need to be kept clean as soon as they appear. You should clean a baby’s teeth gently twice a day using water and a small-headed toothbrush designed especially for babies and toddlers.
You can start to use a pea-sized dollop of low-fluoride children’s toothpaste from the age of 18 months, or earlier if recommended by their dentist. Children can start to use full fluoride toothpaste around the age of 8 or 9, by which time they should be capable of brushing their teeth by themselves under your supervision (so you know they’re doing it properly!).
As well as brushing, it’s also important to floss between kids’ teeth as soon as they start to come together. If you don’t floss, you’re leaving around a third of the surface area of their teeth uncleaned and vulnerable to plaque and decay.
If you or your child are struggling to keep their teeth clean, your dentist can show you the proper brushing and flossing techniques. They can also recommend ways to make the task fun, such as trying an electric toothbrush if they find this easier or more appealing than a manual toothbrush, using brushing tunes, apps and even rewards.
Healthy food and drink
Diet plays a large part in keeping kids’ teeth happy and healthy. Your child’s dentist can provide diet and nutrition advice during your visit. A balanced diet benefits children’s oral health and overall health, with calcium-rich food and drinks helping to build strong and healthy teeth and bones.
Excess sugar in hidden everywhere in kids’ snacks and drinks and is a major factor in the rise of tooth decay in Australia, so cutting down on sugar wherever possible will lower their risks of developing decay and gum disease. Teaching kids how to make healthy food and drink choices for themselves can also help them avoid health issues later in life.
Alongside milk, water is one of the healthiest drinks for children’s teeth. Drinking plenty of water helps to prevent dehydration and rinses the mouth to clear away leftover food and bacteria. Most local water supplies in Western Australia have fluoride added at safe levels that’s proven to help protect teeth against plaque.
Getting rid of bad habits
Your child’s dentist can also advise you about any behaviours that you’re worried might impact on their teeth, such as thumb sucking and dummy use.
Dummies and thumb sucking can be a great way to soothe babies but the decision to use one shouldn’t be made lightly.
A dummy or thumb sucking habit usually stops on its own before causing any lasting growth problems, however, if it continues past the age of four (or when adult teeth start to erupt), it can affect teeth and jaw development and may require orthodontic treatment to correct.
Prolonged dummy use has also been linked to health-related issues such as mouth breathing, delayed speech and language difficulties.
Preventive dental care for children
With tooth decay continuing to be a major concern in Australia, dentists recommend proactive treatments to help protect children’s teeth against plaque and decay, in combination with a good oral hygiene routine.
Preventive dental care is generally offered to children after the age of 6 and includes:
- Oral hygiene treatments
- Fissure sealants
- Sports mouthguards
Oral hygiene treatments
As your child grows, their dentist will start to recommend oral hygiene treatments as part of their regular appointment following their examination. During this appointment, a hygienist or oral health therapist will gently clean your child’s teeth and remove any plaque that may have hardened on their surface.
For older children, fluoride may be applied to the teeth. This creates a protective barrier that can reduce further plaque build-up.
From around the age of 7, your children’s dentist may suggest sealing small gaps in their teeth to prevent plaque from entering and forming cavities.
Fissure sealants are made from a composite resin that’s applied to the back teeth (molars). This resin hardens to create a smooth surface that can also make it easier to brush. Applying fissure sealants is a fast and painless procedure that can help children avoid unnecessary pain and fillings later.
Tooth decay isn’t the only danger to kids’ teeth. All children who play contact sports such as rugby, soccer or hockey should wear a mouthguard to protect their teeth from serious injuries. Mouthguards are also sometimes recommended for other activities including mountain biking and skateboarding.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents choose a custom mouthguard provided by their child’s dentist rather than over-the-counter mouthguards that don’t offer as much protection.
Contact Kelmscott Dental on (08) 9495 7999 to arrange a mouthguard fitting for your child.
Corrective dental care for children
Even when you take the best care of your child’s teeth, accidents and decay can still happen. If their dentist notices a problem during their check-up, they will discuss the most suitable treatment options with you. Common corrective treatments for children include:
- White fillings
- Teeth straightening
- Tooth removal
Baby teeth are more prone to cavities than adult teeth, because the protective enamel layer is thinner. A tooth with a cavity may feel painful or sensitive, and if left untreated it can lead to an infection or tooth loss.
Small holes in teeth may be sealed by placing a white filling inside after removing the bacteria and cleaning the area. The filling procedure may feel a little uncomfortable, but it’s not usually painful.
If your child’s teeth appear to be growing abnormally, their dentist may recommend an orthodontic assessment around the age of 7. This is to check the alignment of their teeth and jaws and identify any possible issues.
Orthodontic treatments are usually provided in early adolescence when the permanent teeth have come through, but teeth straightening is sometimes recommended for younger children to modify the growth of their jaws and reduce the need for correction later.
Dentists only remove a tooth when it’s strictly necessary, such as if it’s too badly damaged to repair with a filling or it’s causing problems in the mouth.
Baby teeth mark the position for adult teeth to come through. So, even though baby teeth are replaced eventually, losing one prematurely may affect the development of the adult tooth growing underneath or cause surrounding teeth to shift. Your child’s dentist will monitor their mouth closely until the replacement tooth has come through.
Are children free at the dentist?
Access to dental care is important for children’s overall health and wellbeing, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the cost.
If your family receives certain Medicare payments, your children may be eligible for free dental services through the Child Dental Benefit Schedule (CDBS). This covers up to $1,000 of basic dental costs over a two-year period for eligible children aged 2 to 17.
You can find out more about CDBS on the Services Australia website. You can also check with your insurer whether your health fund covers kids’ dental costs or ask us about other finance options to help you break down the cost of treatment.
Talk to our kids dentists in Kelmscott and Armadale
If you need a family-friendly dentist near you, our experienced team at Kelmscott Dental including Dr Abraham Thavamani, Dr Mo Soliman, Dr Emilia Bonfanti and Dr Rainer Anderson provide gentle care for your child in a comfortable and warm environment.
To find out more about or book an appointment with our dentists, call us today on (08) 9495 7999 or https://www.centaurportal.com/d4w/org-27/search?practiceID=965.
We also serve all nearby Perth suburbs including Brookdale, Camillo, Champion Lakes, Darling Downs, Forrestdale, Gosnells, Harrisdale, Huntingdale, Jandakot, Maddington, Martin, Mount Nasura, Piara Waters, Roleystone and Thornlie.