Children and the dentist: your questions answered

September 15, 2016



Now, call me weird, but I actually don’t mind going to the dentist. It does help that he plays jazz in the clinic and is (very) easy on the eye, but even after teenage trauma of a retainer, I don’t have The Fear, like so many others, and I want my daughter to feel the same way. Ideally without the inappropriate crush.


However, with so much conflicting info out there I haven’t been sure when to take her, or even how to brush her teeth, so I asked the experts at The Dental Spa to see her for a check-up (her first, at 19 months) and to answer my questions.


Predictably, for the first time ever, Phoebe didn’t want to open her mouth, and despite Hilary The Hygienist being unbelievably convincing, and there being plenty of cartoons to watch, the only way we could get a peek was by hanging her upside down so she would laugh. I know. But it worked.


As Hilary explained, the first visit is all about making the clinic a familiar and friendly place that isn’t associated with discomfort or fear, so don’t be concerned if they don’t say ‘ahhhhh’.


From brushing to baby teeth, here’s the lowdown from the clinic’s Dr Amer…


When should I take my baby to the dentist for their first check-up?

Somewhere between the arrival of your child’s first tooth and their first birthday would be a great time to introduce your child to your dental office. The first appointment is all about your child getting familiar with the dental chair and concept of opening their mouth. While that may seem early for most parents, remember, the idea is to visit the dentist early to ensure a good relationship between your child and the dentist/hygienist as well as to PREVENT any issues before problems begin.


How often should a child see the dentist?

Ideally, children and adults should see a hygienist twice a year and have an annual check up by their dentist.


What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

Both a general dentist and a pediatric dentist provide oral care and improve oral health. A pediatric dentist can treat adults too, but are trained to deal with the needs of children. Pediatric dentists and general dentists that see kids are great options for families with children.


Should I be worried if my child sucks their thumb or uses a dummy?

Pacifiers, particularly if they are the orthodontic shaped ones, are fine up until the age of 2. However, it is important to remember that prolonged pacifier use and thumb sucking can cause dental problems.

I would recommend that pacifier use is restricted to help in soothing a child to sleep, and not be fixed to the child’s clothing and definitely not tied around their neck.


At what age should parent try to wean them off this?

Tt varies from one parent/child to the next, but generally speaking, it is better to do it ASAP. Ideally, after the age of 6 months, parents should at least limit the use of pacifiers to bed/nap time and not using it at all by the time they are 2 years old to avoid any dental issues.


How and how often should I clean my baby’s teeth?

For infants, you should clean using a soft, clean cloth wrapped around your index finger after each feeding, even before teeth start showing. This will give you two advantages; the child will get used to the cleaning/brushing process at an early age, plus there would be no bacterial build up inside your baby’s mouth. For older children aged 2 and above, you need to supervise brushing with age appropriate toothbrushes.


What toothbrush do you recommend for what ages?

A soft bristled brush is best for kids and also one that has a handle that is easy for them to hold and maneuver. Toddlers and young children will be more inclined to enjoy brushing their teeth and making it routine if their brushes are brightly coloured and themed around their favorite cartoon or character.

Most reputable dental brands will mention the age that the brush is specifically designed for. Remember to change the toothbrush every couple of months or when the bristles become worn or frayed. Children’s toothbrushes often need to be replaced more often than yours.


What about using toothpaste?

Children under 2 years old do not need to use toothpaste. For children aged 2 to 5, use a small amount of age-appropriate toothpaste (about the size of a pea), due to their inability to spit effectively.


How can I help prevent tooth decay?

Brush your child’s teeth a minimum of twice a day, preferably morning and evening before bed.

Do not give your child juice or milk in a bedtime bottle or sippy cup. Make sure bedtime bottles are strictly water.

Avoid sodas and other sugary drinks.

Provide a balanced diet.

Havegular dental visits.


How safe are x-rays for children?

Generally, Children don’t require x-rays unless decay is suspected or there is an issue of concern. However, should the need arise, dental x-rays are generally safe if done correctly using a lead apron and high speed film.


What happens if a baby tooth is knocked out?

This is quite common and depending on the age of the child and which tooth has been knocked out, treatment may or may not be required. The best thing is to find the tooth if possible and call your dentist immediately for a professional opinion.


What about a permanent tooth?

It is important to keep calm, find the tooth and place the tooth back in its socket or if that is not possible, under the child’s tongue. Alternatively, place the tooth in a cup of milk and get to the dental office immediately.


You can visit The Dental Spa on Beach Road, Jumeirah 3, and find out more information on services here.

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