Expert Advice: 7 Tips on Preparing for Your Child’s First Dental Visit

Our first visit to the dentist with Vera was certainly memorable.

We were concerned about stains and it was after all, her first time (and our first with a child!), so we had to make sure we prepared her for that visit in an objective manner. Fear of the dentist is very real, so we were determined to start on a good note.

We understand how new parents may feel a little lost when planning to take their child to the dentist. So, we’ve got Dr. Shelly Pang to share with parents how to tackle that first dental visit with kids, and make it a tear-free one!

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The question often asked from parents is when they should bring their children in for the first dental visit. There are many factors to consider for your children to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of their lives. After all, you are in full control of their oral health in the early years, and dental treatments can be an unexpected sum!

For example, having the right knowledge about the use of toothpaste, things to take note of when it comes to eating, brushing teeth, your behavior at the dentist, and even pre-empting your child mentally for the first dental visit can have a significant effect on their experience and dental health.

Here are 7 useful tips that parents with young children should take note of for that first dental visit:

#1: Pick a dentist you can trust

As with family doctors, choose a family dentist whom you trust and will see regularly. This will help your child build a relationship and alleviate any fears.

Having your child follow you or a sibling to dental visits can help them to know what to expect, and help to reduce fear and uncertainty when it is his or her turn.

#2: Start early

Bringing your child to the dentist before he or she turns 3 is a good way to start building trust with your family dentist. While it may not be necessary to do any treatment at this stage, the visits can be focused on dental education. For example, baby bottle milk tooth decay, the sequence of tooth eruptions, etc.

how to prepare for child's first dental visit dentists in Singapore Dr Shelly Pang

Knowing when to use fluoride toothpaste is important to prevent tooth decay and conditions such as fluorosis. Flourosis can lead to white patches and weakening of the teeth due to excessive ingestion of fluoride during enamel formation. For this reason, the recommendation of when to use fluoridated toothpaste depends on the child’s oral hygiene. It is generally advised that a rice-sized portion of kid’s fluoridated toothpaste be used between the age of 3 to 6 when they learn to spit, and fluoride-free toothpaste before the age of 3.

3. Learn what really matters to achieve healthy teeth

While fluoride is helpful in preventing cavities by protecting the enamel, it is important to brush the correct way. Aside from brushing, it is also important for parents to start flossing their children’s teeth as soon as the teeth are in contact, especially between the molars.

Furthermore, decreasing the frequency of sugar intake and consuming less sugar rich food and drinks will also help in preventing tooth decay.

4. Prepare for the process, not the emotions

Some parents may have had unpleasant experiences with dentists, but it is advised not to caution your child against fear or pain. Do not pre-empt your child by saying: “Don’t be scared, it’s not going to hurt, Mummy will buy you something if you see the dentist.” Remember, your child has not seen a dentist before, and phrases like these can lead to even greater uncertainty and apprehension. He or she will be wondering: “Why is it going to hurt? Why is Mummy telling me not to be scared?”

Instead, prepare your child mentally on what to expect at the dentist. For instance, describe the dental process: “The dentists will see your teeth, they will teach you how to brush, they may need to clean your teeth…” Make no mention about pain or fear, since fear can only come from a bad experience.

5. Schedule an ideal time for the appointment

Avoid bringing your child to the dentist when he or she is sleepy or right after a high-sugar meal when the child is hyperactive. Sleepy children are not good listeners and hyperactive children will not settle well in dental chairs!

The ideal time to bring your child would be in the morning – right after breakfast and freshly awake. An alternative would be right after their afternoon nap. As difficult as it may be, please do avoid cancelling appointments at the last minute out of respect for other patients and the doctor, as dentists typically set aside a longer time to see children.

6. Do not interfere

Ideally, let your child be seen alone with the dentist. Otherwise, sit away from your child and try not to interfere with the dental session. Dentists will try to establish trust with your children and communicate with them during the dental process; interference by the parent will affect the children’s ability to listen to the dentist’s instructions.

What if your child cries? Allow them to settle down before leaving the dental chair. We all know that once they learn that crying means they get to go home, it will become a means to an end!

7. Do not share food

Acid-producing bacteria is one of the leading cause of tooth decay.

Parents, if you are prone to dental cavities or have active tooth decay, avoid sharing food with your child as you may introduce cavity-causing bacteria to your child.

This video shows you how to brush and floss your child’s teeth to maintain good oral hygiene.

Good dental practices go a long way. As a parent and an educator to your child, having the right knowledge and habits, plus a trusty family dentist can play a significant role in maintaining your child’s and your entire family’s oral and overall health!

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This article was contributed by Dr Shelly Pang, Dental Surgeon at Unity Denticare (Rivervale Mall). Unity Denticare is part of NTUC Health Co-operative Limited, an NTUC social enterprise.

How did you prepare for your child’s first visit to the dentist? Do share your experiences too!

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