Dental treatment and regular checkups should be part of every healthy child’s life. Along with good dental practice and hygiene at home, your child needs to have a healthy relationship with their dentist.
Your child might go to a dentist to get their teeth checked or cleaned, have a mouth guard fitted, have a filling or talk about how they can look after their teeth with healthy diet and good teeth cleaning.
A dentist is a university-trained health professional who specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions of the teeth, mouth and jaws.
A pediatric dentist is a fully qualified dentist who has completed an extra year at university and is specially trained to care for children. Pediatric dentists often see children with additional health care needs, who are anxious or who have more complex dental needs. Pediatric dentists can treat children under sedation and general anesthesia.
Your child will most likely see a dentist for regular check-ups to see how teeth and jaws are growing and check how well they’re cleaning their teeth and gums.
Your child’s dentist will also give you and your child advice about caring for teeth with healthy eating and good dental hygiene.
Dentists might also take X-rays of your child’s teeth and do some work to help the jaw and teeth line up properly. They might need to use special devices such as plates or braces for this or they might refer you to an orthodontist for this kind of treatment.
For certain dental treatments, your child might not need to see a dentist. They might see one of the following dental health professionals instead.
Dental therapists check and treat diseases of the teeth and gums. Dental therapists work closely with dentists and can do things like cleaning teeth, using fluoride and applying sealants to prevent decay, and putting fillings into teeth damaged by decay.
Dental hygienists are experts in preventing gum disease and cleaning the mouth, teeth and gums. Your child might be referred to a dental hygienist for fluoride treatment or to have dental sealants put on their teeth.
Generally, children should see a dentist by the time they’re one year old. After that, your dentist will let you know how often to bring your child for a check-up – usually every 6-12 months.
Some children (and parents!) experience intense anxiety around going to the dentist. Make sure you don’t show your own anxieties, if you have any, and try to make the visit fun and interesting.
Unfortunately, pain is an unavoidable part of some dental treatment. Try to play this down and talk about how healthy and good it is to have good teeth and to visit the dentist. Avoid saying how brave your child is to go unless they are already scared. If you talk about being brave they might think – “Why do I need to be brave?”, and this implies unpleasantness before they have even got there. Instead take your child to the dentist from an early age before they need treatment. Give them the chance to get to know the dentist and how friendly and fun it is going.
First impressions are lasting impressions!