Say the words ‘dentist visit’ to some people and they’ll break into a cold sweat. Chances are at some point in their life they’ve had an unpleasant or painful experience whilst in the dental chair. So it’s only natural that we want to ensure our kids enjoy going to the dentist and practice good oral hygiene. We’ve put together answers to some of the most common questions parents ask about taking kids to the dentist in Singapore…
When does good oral hygiene start for my child?
Good oral hygiene begins at birth. You can gently wipe your baby’s gums with a clean washcloth or gauze and then as soon as they sprout their first tooth, use a baby toothbrush and water to clean their teeth. It’s ideal to begin this practice early as it gets children used to having their teeth brushed and makes it a part of their daily routine.
When do I need to take my child for their first visit to the dentist?
It is recommended that children visit the dentist every six months from the age of one, or whenever they get their first tooth (whichever comes first). Whilst it may sound early (what can possibly be wrong with those adorable little pearly whites at one year old?), the idea is that you can identify any possible issues early and therefore treat the problem more easily.
How do I choose a good dentist?
Paediatric dentists specialise in dentistry for children. They are generally well trained in dealing with kids and can identify any potential issues quite quickly (it’s amazing what they can see during a quick peek inside a toddler’s mouth!). But it’s not essential that your child see a paediatric dentist – you may have a great relationship with your own dentist and prefer to take your kids to see them. It’s totally up to you and the most important thing is that your kids are comfortable with their dentist.
How frequently do we need to see the dentist?
Aim for a visit to the dentist every six months once your child turns one or when they sprout the first tooth, whichever comes first. The objective is to establish good oral hygiene practices, nip any potential issues in the bud and ensure the kids develop a happy relationship with their dentist.
Is there anything I can do at home to prepare my child for a dentist visit?
Like with any new experience, it’s best to talk to your kids about their visit to the dentist before you go. Tell them about how nice it is seeing a dentist and how they help to keep teeth shiny and sparkly. Let them know that dentists are extra friendly and that they may even be able to watch a movie while they get their teeth looked at your teeth, or get a sticker or new toothbrush as a prize afterwards.
When scheduling an appointment, take into consideration when your child is best rested – perhaps first thing in the morning, or after their afternoon nap. Definitely avoid booking appointments at times when you know they may be overtired. That won’t be fun for anyone.
Try not to project your own fears about dentists onto the kids. As we all know, children are incredibly perceptive and may pick up on your negative dental vibes.
If you’re sensing that your child may be anxious about a dental visit or if your child has special needs and may be extra sensitive to a dentist near their mouth, we suggest visiting a paediatric dentist who is specially trained in working with children.
Consider showing the kids a video, book or song about visiting the dentist if you want to prepare them further. We love The Wiggles’ ‘Brush Your Teeth‘ song, the super catchy Play School classic ‘Ch Ch Ch (The Toothbrush Song)‘, The Tooth Book by Dr Seuss and Peppa Pig’s ‘The Dentist‘ episode. You could also consider asking a friend with a child who loves dentist visits if your child could tag along to their next visit to watch. Kids take a lot of social cues from their peers.
And of course, try to have a good brushing routine established before you head to the dentist – the kids should be brushing twice a day and flossing once a day.
When do I need to start using toothpaste?
According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, up until two years of age, kids don’t need to use toothpaste, simply brush their teeth using a baby toothbrush and water. After two years, you can use a rice grain-sized smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste twice a day. Try to avoid them swallowing the toothpaste too (easier said that done, we know!). After three years old, kids can use a pea-sized smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste. It’s the fluoride in toothpaste that helps prevent and can even reverse tooth decay.
Is one toothpaste better than another, or are they all the same?
Up until five years of age, your child can use a kids’ toothpaste with a fluoride concentration of 500-550 parts per million. From six years of age, they can move on to a toothpaste with a fluoride concentration of 1000-1500 parts per million. Have a look on the back of the toothpaste packaging to check how much fluoride the toothpaste contains. It may be listed in the ingredients as ‘Sodium Fluoride’ with the parts per million (or PPM) in brackets.
Do I need to pick a particular toothbrush?
Find the toothbrush that is the right size for your child’s mouth. It should be soft-bristled and easy to grip. You may want to consider buying an eco-friendly toothbrush – did you know that in the US alone, over one billion toothbrushes end up in landfill every year? And because they’re made of polypropylene plastic and nylon, they don’t ever break down. You could try the kids bamboo Environmental Toothbrush, available on RedMart.
Do children need to floss?
Yes! Your dentist will be able to show you the correct flossing technique (not the dance, the actual tooth floss…although we’d love to see our dentist do the floss).
What happens if my child damages a tooth or it starts to change colour?
It’s not uncommon for kids to knock their teeth, especially as toddlers. If your child falls and damages a tooth (their gums may bleed or they might complain of pain) it’s important to see a dentist, as the dentist may be able to take preventative measures to avoid further damage. Your child’s tooth may begin to turn grey a few days after the fall – this is also not uncommon. So don’t worry, just schedule a dentist visit and they’ll be able to give you further guidance.
Is it an issue if my child grinds their teeth?
Ever walked into your child’s room when they’re asleep to hear them grinding their teeth? Also known as ‘bruxism’, teeth grinding is not uncommon in kids. There are several different causes, like misalignment of teeth, pain, hyperactivity and stress. In most cases children grow out of bruxism, but it is something to mention at your next dentist visit (although they’ll probably be able to see evidence of teeth grinding before you mention it). The dentist may advise you to try some relaxation exercises before bed or for more severe grinding, they could suggest a mouthguard.
What can I do for my kids to maintain healthy teeth?
Keep yourself informed about what foods commonly lead to cavities. Stick to healthy whole foods, when possible, avoid sugar-dense foods and acidic drinks like soda and juices. Encourage the children to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. Singapore’s water supply contains fluoride (about 0.6mg per litre of water) and is safe to drink too.
You can also talk to your dentist about the impact of dummy or thumb sucking to ensure the development of your kids’ teeth isn’t being impacted. They’ll also be able to give you some great tips on how to best stop these habits.
And finally, lead by example and brush your teeth with your kids twice a day as soon as they sprout their first tooth!
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