The approach to children’s dentistry is often different due to the difference between adult and baby teeth and the ability of a child to co-operate for extended periods of time.
“ With three children of my own, I understand the stressors of raising a family, coordinating appointment times for all the kids and then adding up the cost of treatment. We offer discounts for children under 17 years of age. We also offer no gap treatment if you are eligible for the Medicare CDBS” – Dr Barbara Szylkarski
Learn more about the Medicare CDBS.
How old should my child be before visiting the dentist?
It is recommended your child first visit the dentist at around 12 months of age or when the first teeth appear. However it can be very daunting for a child of this age to understand their surroundings. By 2 years of age kids are able to significantly improve their ability to co-operate. Even if this means sitting on mum or dads lap in the dental chair.
Some kids respond well if they watch other members of the family visit the dentist, however it is important that your visit is relaxed. A child can very easily sense if you are tense and anxious at the dentist and you will pass this fear onto your child.
Tips to help make your first dentist visit a breeze:
- Discussing the appointment prior to a visit can be a great idea. You can find a book about visiting the dentist and practice together on the couch at home.
- Remind your child about a dental education visit that may have happened at child care or kindergarten.
- Bring a favourite toy to your first visit or a favourite DVD to play on the ceiling TV. We often have ABC kids playing on the ceiling, this makes an incredible difference to a child visit as they associate this with home and being in a safe environment.
- Call ahead if you have any worries or concerns so the dentist is aware ahead of time. This will save discussing issues in front of your child, which may make them anxious.
Children Aged 0-11 years:
Always be positive about the dentist and do not pass on your own fear of the dentist.
Crying can be a very normal part of an initial dental visit and does not mean your child is in pain. Be sure not to ask your child to be brave as they already are, and this can signal possible danger and make them more anxious.
It is important not to use the dentist as a punishment or a deterrent. Telling your child their teeth will turn black if they eat sugar, will only make them more fearful and will not help them to brush more.
Snacking is one of the biggest causes of tooth decay. Limit the snacks to meal times. Grazing all day on lollies, soft drink, biscuits, muesli bars and cakes/muffins will most certainly lead to tooth decay. We call these the “sometimes-foods”. The healthy snacks include unprocessed vegetables, cheeses and lean meats.
And drink plenty of water!
How do I brush my baby’s teeth?
Start by wiping their gums with a soft cloth twice a day and then move onto a soft small child appropriate toothbrush as soon as the first tooth appears. Do not use toothpaste on the brush until 18 months of age.
Help your child adjust to flossing by trying a floss handle and showing them how to pass the floss between the teeth. Make sure the floss handle does not have a sharp end. The Reach floss handle is excellent and is readily available at our dental practice or at the Chemist.
Starting to brush your baby’s teeth early is essential in helping them understand that tooth brushing is a normal part of life. Letting them watch you brush and floss your own teeth will make this a normal activity.
Why does my child need X-rays?
Not all children require X-rays. If the baby teeth are not all erupted, are well spaced, or starting to fall out, we may not require X-rays as we can see between the teeth. However X-rays can also be helpful for checking on the erupting adult teeth. A family history of dental problems can often be an indication for X-rays.
The following is a list of reasons to take X-rays:
- To check for holes between the teeth and under fillings where we cannot see
- To look for gum disease or tooth infections such as an abscess
- To look for missing teeth, malformed teeth or extra teeth
- To look for cyst or tumours
- Following dental trauma such as a knock to the teeth, X-rays are a critical part of treatment particularly if there are likely to be tooth or jaw fractures.
- A Wisdom teeth check – should they be removed or not.
Children Aged 12-17 years:
Children at this age become significantly independent from their parents and caregivers. They will either continue with the excellent habits taught to them when they were younger, or they may just decide to have a little break from cleaning their teeth so often. Constant encouragement is recommended (I think it’s called nagging) to get them through this period.
Here are some helpful hints for Children 12-17 years to help stay on track:
- Brush your teeth for 2 minutes in the morning and evening and aim for 30 seconds for each quarter of the mouth.
- Play your favourite pop song or two and look for a song that is 2 minutes long to use as a timer for brushing.
- Point the bristles to the gum line at 45 degree angle and use a circular motion on the outsides of the teeth. These are adult teeth now that hopefully will be around for the next 80 years – take care of them.
- If you are using an electric toothbrush follow the contours of each tooth and the curves of the gum and do not scrubb.
- Avoid heavy force and use a soft brush
- Replace that toothbrush every 3 months.
Teeth grinding can occur at any age and many parents comment that their child audibly grinds their teeth. In the baby teeth this can cause a lot of damage, but usually the teeth last long enough until they fall out.
In adult teeth this can cause life long damage. Grinding and clenching the teeth can be associated with many lifestyle factors such as stress, but also from a poor bite and poor posture. Teenagers may complain of headaches and sore jaws in the morning. Grinding can resolve (eg: may only occur during school exams) but if it is very destructive we can discuss using a grinding splint. Orthodontic retainers can also be very useful in protecting the teeth once braces are removed.
Determining if your child requires orthodontics can sometimes be obvious from an early age, but commonly braces are fitted around the age of 12 years, once you have a full set of permanent teeth. It is generally best for braces to be fitted during your child’s maximum growth period, as this will help the teeth move the fastest.
There are many reasons why orthodontics may occur prior to this age, some children develop faster than others and sometimes early intervention orthodontics is required for severe crowding cases. Early intervention can prevent the canine teeth from becoming impacted, these teeth can sometimes fail to erupt as they are moving in the wrong direction and can get stuck inside the gums.
Some children don’t require any orthodontics, they have well aligned bites that are functional and cosmetically straight teeth.
Beyond the obvious of how your teeth look, below are the other benefits of having straight teeth:
• Teeth that are crowded are difficult to keep clean, straight teeth will help you clean your teeth and gums more easily.
• Teeth that are not aligned properly can result in uneven wear of the teeth, straight teeth will help to prevent clenching and grinding by avoiding a poor bite.
Malocclusions (poor bites) are often associated with these problems.
Dental Trauma and First Aid
Dental Trauma can be very devastating for a child and their family depending on the severity of the trauma. How quickly dental trauma is treated is significantly related to the success of recovery. There are many different trauma classifications all with their own recommended treatment and follow up protocols. There are extensive international flow charts that we follow, based on research, that help us diagnose, treat and follow up each individual dental trauma for best success.
What to do if a tooth has been knocked out?
1. Find the tooth and hold it by the crown only, do not hold by the root as this can damage the delicate ligament attached to the root or contaminate the root.
2. If the tooth is dirty, rinse it with milk but do not soak it.
3. Try to replace the tooth into the socket, the sooner the tooth is replaced the better the chance of the tooth surviving. Make sure it is facing the right way around by looking at the other teeth.
4. If it is a baby tooth, do not replace the tooth as this can damage the developing permanent tooth.
5. Once in place use aluminium foil to hold the tooth in place or bite on a soft cloth.
6. If you cannot replant the tooth, transport the tooth in saliva or in mild. Do not place the tooth in water.
For all other dental trauma’s that result in a broken tooth, be sure to find the piece of tooth that is broken and bring it with you. Pieces can be re-bonded very successfully if intact.
Are you looking for the best kids Dentistry for your child? We hope this information is helpful, feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We would love to look after your family in the same way we look after our own.
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