When Should My Child First Visit the Dentist? | Mount Lawley Dental
When Should My Child First Visit the Dentist
Kids Dentistry

When Should My Child First Visit the Dentist

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Baby teeth mark the position in which permanent teeth will grow. This is why caring for your child’s oral health is so important.

3 minute read

Baby teeth mark the position in which permanent teeth will grow. This is why caring for your child’s oral health is so important. Tooth decay in childhood is a growing concern in Australia with 27% of kids aged between 5-10 years going untreated for the condition (1). By helping your child learn how to take good care of their teeth from a young age, you help lower their oral health risks in the long term.

Parents and caregivers should look after their children's teeth from the moment they appear. This includes taking them to see a kids' dentist by their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth.

 

Why are regular check-ups important?

Just like everything else in their bodies, children's teeth grow rapidly, and problems such as tooth decay and gum disease can develop just as quickly. Regular check-ups improve the chance of their dentist spotting early signs of a problem, when they are easier and more affordable to treat and before they cause unnecessary pain or permanent damage.

Healthy baby teeth promote the growth of healthy adult teeth developing under the gums. On the flip side, damaged or missing teeth in kids can affect permanent teeth and in turn, their overall health. This is because your child’s ability to chew and speak properly relies on the correct function of teeth and gums.

If food cannot be chewed properly, kids can be less likely to eat the foods more difficult for them to chew. Unchewed food can affect digestion and the lack of variety in foods can limit the essential nutrients their bodies need to grow.

 

What can I expect at my child's visit?

 

First visit

Your child's first visit to a dentist is mainly to help them to become familiar and comfortable with their surroundings. Developing positive associations with dental care can help to make their regular check-ups easier and prevent dental fear.

During their first appointment, if they are happy to open their mouth, their dentist will examine their teeth using a mirror to check that they are healthy and developing normally. They can also give you advice about how to care for their teeth at home and answer any questions or concerns you may have.

 

Regular check-ups

After their first visit, your child's dentist will recommend they attend regular check-ups from around their second birthday. Regular visits allow their dentist to check how their teeth and jaws are growing and to look for signs of decay or other problems.

 

Oral hygiene treatments

As your child gets older, their dentist will recommend oral hygiene treatments as part of their regular appointments. This can include professional cleaning and scaling to remove hardened plaque and safe fluoride application to strengthen tooth enamel and help protect them against decay.

 

Orthodontic assessments

Over the years your child’s dentist will watch how their teeth erupt and how their jaws develop, and if they have any orthodontic concerns, they may recommend an assessment around the age of 7. This orthodontic assessment is to examine alignment and determine whether they could benefit from early treatment. Early intervention may also reduce their need for teeth straightening in their later years.

 

Dental treatments

If your child's dentist does spot a problem with their teeth, and recommends a corrective treatment such as a filling, they will explain what treatment involves so you'll know what to expect.

Children's dentists may also recommend preventive treatments, based on your child's oral health risk factors. These can include fissure sealants to help protect their teeth against decay and custom mouthguards for older children taking part in sports.

 

How often should my child see the dentist?

Your child's dentist will recommend a suitable frequency for check-ups depending on their individual needs. This is normally every 6 to 12 months, but more frequent visits may be recommended for children with ongoing oral health concerns or who are undergoing treatment.

You should make an appointment with a dentist outside of your child's normal schedule if you notice any signs of a dental problem or if they incur an injury to their teeth and gums. Mount Lawley Dental reserves appointment times for dental emergencies to ensure urgent care can be accessed when it’s needed.

Signs of a dental issue that requires attention can include:

 

  • Bad breath
  • Swollen or red gums
  • White spots on teeth (early signs of weakened enamel)
  • Light brown to dark brown and black spots on teeth

 

How can I care for my child's teeth at home?

Visiting the dentist is only one part of maintaining a good oral hygiene routine. Your children also rely on you to keep their teeth and mouths healthy every day with regular brushing, flossing and importantly, a healthy diet.

 

Brushing

Dentists recommend brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they appear, using a soft children's toothbrush that's the right size for their mouth.

Fluoride in toothpaste is important for preventing tooth decay, but continuously swallowing fluoride can cause discolouration of children’s teeth while they are developing. If your child is likely to swallow toothpaste, you can brush their teeth with water until they understand how to spit it out. After this time, you can use low-fluoride children's toothpaste. At the age of around 6 years, they should be ready for adult toothpaste, provided they've learned not to swallow.

Children need help with tooth brushing until around the age of 7. Older children should still be supervised to make sure they brush properly and for the recommended 2 minutes.

To make brushing easier or more appealing for reluctant brushers, an electric toothbrush be used over a manual toothbrush. These are safe to use from around the age of 3. Replace your child's toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 3 months or after an illness.

 

Flossing

Did you know that the areas in between the teeth account for 40% of tooth surfaces? This is why flossing is so important. You should floss your child’s teeth as soon as they start to touch together, as food and bacteria get trapped in the gaps between teeth where toothbrush bristles can’t reach.

Children will need help with flossing for longer than brushing, usually until around the age of 10. If they find standard floss uncomfortable or hard to use, their dentist may recommend a floss holder, interdental brush or water flosser.

Watch this quick video from Dr Lewis Moore on how to brush and floss like a pro! 

 

Healthy diet

Reducing the amount of sugar your child consumes overall, is a good habit you can adopt on their behalf. Sugar feeds the bacteria that causes tooth decay and is hidden in many packaged foods and drinks. This includes added sugars in fruit juices and soft drinks as well as cakes, biscuits and lollies.

In Australia, 70% of kids aged between 9-13 years and 73% of those aged between 14-18 years are consuming too much sugar (2). A nutritious, balanced diet is good for your child's oral health and overall health. Children over 12 months should drink water as their main drink, especially tap water containing safe levels of fluoride.

 

Is dental care free for children?

Good oral health is important for children's overall health and development, and all families should be able to access high quality dental care.

The Australian Government provides support for eligible families through the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS). This covers up to $1,026 of basic dental services over two calendar years for kids and teenagers aged 2 to 17 whose families receive certain Medicare payments.

Your dental clinic can help you to check whether you’re eligible to claim for children’s dental treatments through CDBS or other benefits or health funds. They may also offer interest-free payment plans to help break down your invoice into bite-sized instalments.

 

Looking for a kids’ dentist in Mount Lawley?

If your child is due for their first check-up or you’re looking for a family-friendly dental clinic in Perth, contact our team at Mount Lawley Dental today. We award dental certificates and provide toothbrushing timers to kids to encourage them to take good care of their teeth and gums.

To book an appointment or find out more about our dental services for children, call (08) 9227 8777 or contact us and a member of our team will be in touch shortly. We welcome patients from Mount Lawley, Highgate, Inglewood, North Perth and other nearby suburbs.

 

References

  1. https://www.ada.org.au/Dental-Professionals/Australia-s-Oral-Health-Tracker/Australia-s-Oral-Health-Tracker-Technical-Appe-(1)/ADA_AHPC_Technical-Appendix_07032018.aspx
  2. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-care-for-children
  3. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/dental-checks-for-young-children 

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