Children’s Dental Examinations – Beyond Year One

COMPREHENSIVE ORAL EXAMINATIONS FOR 1-3 YEAR OLDS

The first dental visit isn’t just about checking the teeth. It includes checking the lips, gums and tongue as well as assessing for function of the mouth (eg mouth posture, tongue posture, swallowing etc). The approach is geared towards prevention of dental disease and oral issues.

THE FIRST COMPREHENSIVE ORAL EXAMINATION

It is important to look after your child’s teeth from the moment they start teething.  The best time to start the process of preventive oral and dental care is at 1 year of age or shortly after the eruption of the first baby teeth. This allows each child to become familiar with having an examination and being in the dental environment.

THE BENEFITS OF ESTABLISHING GOOD EARLY HABITS

The purpose of the dental visit for YEAR ONE AND BEYOND is to learn about your child’s oral health and how to best care for their unique needs before any problems occur. Many dental problems can be prevented or more easily treated in the early stages. It’s important to find a dentist you trust and an office where you feel comfortable. At this first visit, you will get your questions answered and start to build a relationship.

We know that it can be challenging to find time to look after so many aspects of the life of a little one!  It can be difficult to know what to do when your child resists you brushing their teeth or wishes to eat the wrong foods.  Parents want to be assertive and responsible about oral health without being overly obsessive – we feel the same about our clinical care.

Beyond the clinical benefits, a check-up at an early age will help establish a positive attitude toward dental care.  We want to make the dental experience a pleasant and routine part of growing up. We want to make Enhance your dental home and watch the progress of your child and be a part of ensuring their best path to optimum oral development.

IF YOUR CHILD HAS HAD A DENTAL EXPERIENCE ALREADY – eg FRENECTOMY…

For the families of young ones who have visited us early in life (such as treatment of tongue/lip ties), it is even more relevant to track the progress of oral function.

We recommend a visit at 12 months (1 year) of age for those who were younger than a year old at treatment.  For those who were older, we suggest a visit 3-6 months later (will vary depending on your individual case and usually we will suggest a time-line at your frenectomy visit)

Regardless of the age at frenectomy, we need to establish a path for tracking progress with respect to critical oral functions. At the same visit, we will also do a routine dental examination.

THE BENEFITS OF COMPREHENSIVE CARE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN?

Keeping your child’s teeth and gums clean will protect against infection, cavities and pain. Decayed baby teeth can damage the permanent teeth underneath.  At Enhance, the YEAR ONE AND BEYOND dental visit allow us to discuss the following with parents and carers:

  • How to clean the mouth of your child
  • Deciding on the timing and type of toothpaste (and amount)
  • Oral habits, including pacifier, finger and thumb sucking
  • Ways to prevent accidents that could damage the face and teeth
  • Teething and milestones of development
  • The link between diet and oral health

After this first visit, we will suggest a schedule of continuing care visits. The schedule may vary according to each child’s needs and risks. As your child grows, the dental team can help you learn how to prevent common oral problems and how to manage any issues that arise with balance.

Preparing for your Dental Visit

It is not unusual that young toddlers fuss during parts or all of their visit. However, you may be surprised at how accepting toddlers can be when they are being examined. They may enjoy the attention and novelty of the visit.

If possible, ask another adult to come with you. It’s best if this is someone who helps to care for your child. You want to be free to talk comfortably with the dentist or hygienist and to focus attention on your child. For this reason, it is best not to bring other children along at this first visit. Bring an extra nappy and snack for your child. Also bring a favourite toy, blanket or other familiar object. This will help your child to know that the dental office is a comfortable and safe place.

Value of Helpful Language:

Parents often try to help by preparing their children for dental visits but at times inadvertently instil fear and dread into the child’s mind by using language or concepts that are unhelpful.

The language will vary for different age-groups but we encourage you to use POSITIVE LANGUAGE about how the experience WILL BE LIKE (rather than what it won’t be like)

For a one year old, it’s unlikely that you will need to elaborate much, but for a 3 year old, the below suggestions are offered for your consideration:

HELPFUL LANGUAGE (feel free to use this language)

“We are going to the dentist – what fun we will have!”

“We are going to see Dr Jones today – I wonder how many teeth she will count in your mouth!”

 “I hope you can be helpful to the dentist and open wide so she can check your teeth. ”

“We are going somewhere to look inside the mouth and maybe take some photos of your face and teeth”

NOT HELPFUL LANGUAGE (don’t use this language)

“It won’t hurt/bleed/be painful.

“I want you to be brave”. This implies there is something difficult to fear and to be brave for – no need to do this.

 “It wont hurt!” – All they hear is the word ‘hurt’.  We may lose their cooperation.

 “You have to be good or you won’t get a prize” Negative implication and a bribe.

If you are naughty, I will have to take you to the dentist!”  This is using the dentist as a deterrent or punishment and instils fear

Remember children are very perceptive and will pick up on your anxiety.  Relax, we’ll take good care of your precious ones!

At the first visit

Your child will meet and be examined by one of our Oral Health Therapists (OHTs) or dentists.

To make the best of your time at the practice with our professional team and to make the first visit easier, we will email you all the forms you need to print out – please bring these with you.  On the day, we will cover any of the following depending on your child’s needs:

  • Review your child’s history
  • Respond to your questions and concerns
  • Talk with you about your child’s overall oral health, including:
  • History of breastfeeding (breastfeeding can affect future oral function and development of the jaws)
  • Bottle feeding and early eating habits (these also can affect the development of the jaws)
  • Mouth versus nose breathing
  • Teething
  • Bite (how your child’s teeth will come together)
  • Soft tissues such as gums and cheeks
  • Oral habits such as sucking
  • Factors that affect the risk of cavities, such as diet, hygiene practices, fluoride use and whether others in the family have had cavities

We will go through your history with you as well as thoroughly examine your child’s mouth in the knee-to-knee position. Your child sits on your lap, facing you. You then lay your child back with their head in the dentist or OHT’s lap.

  • Show how to clean your child’s teeth and if needed, give you a chance to practice
  • Give specific advice about home care, including hygiene, diet and use of toothpaste and other fluorides
  • Tell you what to expect as your child grows and develops in the coming months
  • Suggest a schedule for follow-up care

The dentist or Oral Health Therapist may also clean your child’s teeth. This is likely to occur if your child’s teeth have a stain that sometimes appears in infants or toddlers.

ORAL HEALTH RUNS IN THE FAMILY

You’ve taken the important step of giving your child the best start in life, but did you know oral health runs in the family and that dental decay is contagious? The bacteria from active dental decay spreads easily between members of a family and especially between parents and children – so one of the best ways to care for your child’s teeth is to care for your own.

Just as we work hard to take great care of your child, we’d love to be able to take care of you too. If you’re not under the regular care of a dentist, or if you’re looking for a change, consider arranging a comprehensive examination for the adults and older children in the family.

We’d love to take care of all of you!