Generally speaking, when a child has to go for a trip to the dentist, it usually results in tears and crying. For some children, just hearing that they have to go to the dentist brings on a crying fit that almost brings the house down! Trying to avoid the situation by not bringing your children for dental work and checkups, however, is not the answer, as before you realize it, their little teeth may already be decaying or worse. So what should you do and how can you get that little rascal to the dentist?
Before a child ever even goes to meet the dentist, his/her parents are, in essence, that child’s first dentists. Because of this, let’s first get to know some of the major problems that arise with children’s teeth so that we can understand how to prevent them properly.
The most common problem that pediatric dentists encounter in children is tooth decay, also known as cavities or dental caries. Gum disease is also found, but is usually in the form of gingivitis due to improper or incomplete teeth-brushing. Conversely, disease affecting tissues and bones surrounding the teeth (periodontitis) is relatively uncommon. Next down the list is teeth problems due to accidents, such as chipped or broken teeth as a result of a fall while running.
Most of the time, therefore, a child’s dental health or lack thereof is dependent upon the care and consistency of the parents in that area of their child’s life. One major cause of tooth decay in very young children is from baby bottles. This is important to be aware of, as children who go to sleep with a bottle in their mouth are in danger of developing severe and rapid tooth decay.
When it comes to your child’s oral and dental healthcare, it is recommended that you begin even before the child’s teeth are formed.
A lot of parents do not pay enough attention to their child’s baby teeth, as they figure the child will eventually get another set of permanent teeth and they will more properly care for and look after those. A child’s primary teeth (baby teeth) are actually rather important. Their main function is to be place holders for the permanent teeth so that they grow properly and beautifully into their correct positions. If a child loses their baby teeth prematurely, this can have negative consequences in the long term; their permanent teeth may not be able to come in properly, or may grow in crooked, or this may cause crowding of the permanent teeth. Hence, parents should give proper attention to their children’s dental care from the time they only have their baby teeth. Children should be brought to see the dentist for checkups no later than 6 months after their first baby tooth comes in.
Now it’s time to talk about bringing your little rascal to the dentist to get his or her teeth checked.
When it comes time for little ones to have their first dental checkup, this requires the cooperation of the parents as well. A key factor in whether or not a child cooperates with the dentist depends on whether or not the child was properly prepared for the visit at home. One simple way to help your child prepare is to find a storybook or cartoon about the teeth to read or watch with your child, and then to explain to them why we need to go to the dentist, what happens at the dental clinic, what the dentist will do and what kind of dental equipment to expect. Try to find ways to explain this to them in simple words that do not sound complicated, scary or worrying to the child.
Don’t lie to or trick your child into thinking you are taking them out for a fun trip or excursion when you are bringing them to the dentist, as this can cause your child to develop a fear of going to the doctor or dentist, and not understanding why they would need to be tricked into going to the hospital.
Secondly, don’t use going to the dentist as something that you threaten your child with. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to brush their teeth, parents should try to explain the effects and what could happen to their teeth if they are not brushed and cared for. You should never threaten your children with going to the dentist if they don’t brush their teeth, as this indirectly creates a fear in the child’s mind, causing them to think that going to the dentist is a scary thing. The teeth organs are as important as other organs in the body, you must always place importance on consistent, regular care of a child’s dental health. If children have healthy teeth then they will not need to go to the dentist more than is necessary. Although bringing a child to the dentist may sometimes seem a rather daunting or difficult task, if all parties involved, both at home and at the hospital, have a good knowledge and understanding of a child’s nature, you may soon see your little ones come to you themselves and say, “Please, Mom, I want to go to the dentist.”
D.D.S., Faculty of Dentistry, Chiangmai University
D.D.S., Faculty of Dentistry, Khonkaen University, 2000. , 2000
D.D.S., Faculty of Dentistry, Chulalongkorn University, 2001.