When is The Right Time To Start Taking Your Kids To The Dentists?
- All Ages
When IS the right time to start taking your kids to the dentist? It’s yet another thing that you just wish you had a manual for because no ever tells you these things, you’re just supposed to know. This is where we’d like to help.
I have been going to the same dentist my whole life. Michael and his receptionist Dot were there when I needed emergency work done after jumping into my neighbour's pool too deep (bye bye two front teeth), he was there when I needed my wisdom teeth taken out, he lectured me on smoking and coffee stains during my rebellious years and they are there for me now as a parent of two small humans. We catch up regularly; every 6 months for a check-up and chat. I know I am extremely lucky to have retained this sort of long term relationship because finding a great dentist can be hard.
My partner, on the other hand, hates dentists with a passion and will create very elaborate schemes to avoid going. There is no loyalty to one dentist, rather finds one closest to work when absolutely desperately required. I didn’t want this fear to be passed down to our kids, so I have been taking my boys to the dentist with me, essentially since the day they were born.
When to go?
The first 2 years or so obviously were more about the experience of going and becoming comfortable in that environment.
Dot always gives the boys a cuddle and a bag of toothpaste/bushes at the end of each visit, something they both really look forward to receiving (it doesn’t take much to excite them!). At this time, their teeth are still coming in so there isn’t much for a dentist to do except to count them and educate on brushing. The boys are invited to sit in the big chair, go for a little ride and drink water from the magical fountain. If they feel comfortable enough, Dentist Michael will ask them to open wide and he proceeds to count their teeth out loud 1, 2, 3, oh and a new one up the back wow, 4, 5…. And records the final number of their patient cards. The experience is all about becoming comfortable in the surroundings and not being afraid of the environment.
Around the age of 4, my eldest finally had his first proper appointment. He sat in the big chair, without fear, and had his teeth checked and cleaned as he non-stopped chatted away to Michael about his current favourite show, Zack n Quack. When it was all over, he was incredibly proud of himself, as was I.
The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that as a rule of thumb, it’s time for a dental visit when your baby’s first tooth becomes visible or they reach 12 months old – whichever comes first. The earlier your child visits the dentist the better. Prevention is better than cure and early dental visits will help protect your child from tooth decay.
Like so many aspects of parenting, it’s important to always remain positive about the dentist and dental care, regardless of how you personally feel. Never use the dentist as a threat “If you don’t clean your teeth, the dentist will pull them all out”, in fact, try to avoid using words like pull, extract or drill all together as this will only create fear and anxiety in your child.
ADA offer these 5 Don’t of Dental Visits
- Don’t tell your child to be brave (they already are)
- Don’t bribe your child
- Don’t tell your child that it won’t hurt (or it will)
- Don’t use the dentist as a deterrent or punishment
- Don’t be anxious yourself
Of course, dental care is not just about teeth; it also includes gums, lips and the inside of your mouth. About a week out in the lead up to our visits, I start practising with my boys. I ask my son to “Open wide”, “Show me your gums” etc and I we practise counting their teeth.
When they clean their teeth, we talk about how fun the magical chair is and we try and guess what special treats Dot will give them. By the time we arrive at the clinic, everyone is excited to be there. Hallelujah.
To recap, the key is to start young to create a sense of calm and comfort. Remain positive at all times and avoid using the dentist as a deterrent or punishment.
Now to find a great family dentist you can build your own long term relationship with…..
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