PA Requirements - Blog

Clean Teeth & Happy Smiles with Children at the Dentist
Posted by Emily Pazel

Even as an adult, going to the dentist can sometimes be a nerve-racking experience. So just imagine what it’s like as a young child going for the first time. The chair, the lights, the sound of buzzing tools – it’s a lot of stimulation and can be a lot to take in all at once.

However, it’s a very necessary part of life to make sure young children see a dentist as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So, it’s up to parents to get your children ready for their first visit to the pediatric dentist to provide a friendly, calming environment for children.

With that being said, how can parents get their children ready to see a dentist? Simple, you can follow a few different steps to start that transition, like teaching them to brush their teeth for the first time from an early age. But just how early can you start?

When should children start brushing teeth?

Interestingly enough, babies are born with all 20 of their primary teeth below their gum lines, and they start to pop up between the age of 6 to 12 months. This process of your child’s first teeth coming through the gums is called teething and it could last all the way until your child reaches the age of 3.

Did you also know that pretty much as soon as teeth first appear, decay can start to happen? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), as soon as you start to see those pearly whites popping through their gum lines, it’s time to start brushing.

Having a new born baby is tough, especially when it’s your first and you have a lot of different guidelines and steps to follow to ensure your child is getting the care they need. And sometimes you might think that having no teeth equals one less thing you have to worry about, right? Wrong.

Per the ADA, you can follow these steps to ensure your child is getting the adequate amount of time spent on their teeth:

  • Once your baby is born, start cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth.
  • As soon as the baby’s teeth appear, it’s time to break out that toothbrush and toothpaste and start brushing; the baby’s front four teeth usually start to push through the gums at about 6 months of age.
  • You should brush your baby’s/child’s (0 - 3 years) teeth twice a day, with some fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice.
  • From ages 3 to 6 years, you should use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

As with many healthy habits, starting from an early age is key. And although brushing your teeth sometimes comes as a last-minute chore right before going to school or going to bed, there are ways to spruce up this daily routine.

Instead of making it a chore, make it four minutes of fun. The ADA recommends cranking up some tunes and having a two-minute dance party, or reading a two-minute story using some funny, silly voices. Another way to make it fun is by rewarding good behavior, for example, if your child likes stickers, make a reward chart and let them add one each time they brush their teeth. Use your creativity and do whatever works. As long as your child finds time in their routine for two minutes of brushing their teeth twice a day, you should be in good hands.

Now you’ve conquered getting your child to brush their teeth, what’s next? How about an annual trip to the dentist.

Getting ready for the first appointment

Here we go – another milestone! Taking your baby to the dentist should come almost simultaneously after your baby’s first couple of teeth pop through their gums. This may come as a surprise, but the ADA recommends that your child see a dentist after the first teeth start to appear and before the baby’s first birthday. Believe it or not, as soon as your baby has teeth, they can start getting cavities.

Before going to your appointment, try to get your child ready for the visit by talking to them about what’s going to happen and be sure to keep it positive. Practice with them opening and closing their mouths and maybe even read a few books about the dentist.

During the appointment, the dentist will examine your child to make sure their jaw and teeth are developing correctly. You may be asked to sit in the chair with the child in your lap and the dentist will check for injuries, cavities or any other issues. The dentist will also clean the child’s teeth and offer tips to mom, dad or the caregiver on how to continue daily oral care for your child.

The ADA also recommends a couple of tips for a great first visit:

  • Prior to the exam, try to call the office and see if there is paperwork and/or patient forms that you can fill out at home and bring in ready to go; this way, you might have less of a wait time
  • Try not to schedule an appointment during naptime; you know your child best and should know when the child is well-rested and more cooperative
  • Before the appointment, have your child eat a lighter meal and make sure their teeth are brushed so they aren’t hungry during the exam
  • Try your best to make the appointment as positive as possible by making it fun; if your child becomes upset during the visit, work with the dentist and try to calm the child

The best trips to the dentist are when the parents work alongside the pediatric dentist to make the experience fun for everyone to endure. Usually, pediatric dentists go above and beyond to try to make the visits fun and educational for the little ones. From decorating their office with bright, fun colors to having a cheerful staff. They work hard to make your children feel as comfortable as possible, because even for some adults, a trip to the dentist isn’t always top of the list for fun activities.

Did you know that the America’s Pediatric Dentists have a whole section on their website dedicated to helping parents and their children learn more about teeth and oral health? They offer knowledgeable and credible articles for parents to read and fun activities for children to do, such as coloring, word puzzles and printable posters that all revolve around dental health. They even offer a search option for parents to find a local pediatric dentist in their local area.

Now that you have all the tools and knowledge that you need, you can sleep soundly knowing that your child’s dental health is manageable and by helping them make good decisions about their oral health from an early age. As we mentioned earlier, no one knows your little ones better than you so it’s important they learn good hygiene and well-balanced health routines from someone they trust. After all, they look up to you. So, start good habits by creating good habits for yourself and your family.