- Written by Lea Hanson Lea Hanson
Start dental care early
As parents, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to etch positive and healthy habits into our kids’ lives, often with the intention of setting them up for a successful adulthood. We serve our kids fruits and vegetables, encourage play and exercise, teach communication skills and more. Dental health is one of many ways we can set up our kids for success as they age.
The foundation for healthy permanent teeth is laid in the first few years. Poor diet, poor eating habits, and inadequate tooth brushing habits are related to tooth decay in children. Therefore, it is essential to establish a strong and healthy oral hygiene routine early in life to ensure the development of strong and healthy teeth. Kids with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak clearly, and smile with confidence.
As consistent role models, parents and caregivers are the key for helping children create a daily routine for oral hygiene as well as teaching kids the importance of it. Tooth brushing is an important habit and should be presented as such.
When to first visit
The sooner children begin getting regular dental checkups, the healthier their mouths will stay throughout their lives. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics say children should first visit a dentist by age 1, or around 6 months after the first tooth appears. This first visit teaches parents and caregivers how to care for their children’s teeth and often helps the child remain cavity-free. Later visits (after most teeth have come in) allow the dentist and parents to understand and anticipate any teething issues and abnormalities.
Whether your child is mildly nervous or seriously afraid, here are a few strategies to help comfort and empower your child:
Opt for a pediatric dentist – A practitioner who specializes in treating children brings extra skills, patience, and usually has a fun, kid-friendly office
Start early – normalize the experience from the beginning and create a healthy routine
Don’t project your own worries – if you suffer from anxiety surrounding dentist visits, do your best not to project or introduce that worry to your child. If your fears are strong, consider allowing another adult to take your child to his/her appointments
Listen more than talk – allow your child and the dentist to speak directly to one another. This empowers your child and also introduces him/her to the idea of naming body feelings and sensations.
Choosing a Dentist
In northern Colorado, you can choose among many pediatric dentists. If you’re choosing a dentist for the first time, here are a few tips for trying to find the option that is best for you and your child:
Ask for recommendations from friends and family.
Ask for a referral from your pediatrician.
Search local websites or magazines for recommendations.
Ask about training: A pediatric dentist has two additional years of residency training for babies, kids, teens and kids with special needs.
Review the office’s atmosphere: Is the dentist office kid-friendly? Are the instruments appropriate for your child's mouth?
When you meet the dentist and the office staff: Are they friendly and accessible? How does your dentist respond to a scared or crying child?