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Your child’s first visit to the dentist or dental hygienist for an oral health assessment should be around age two. Your dentist will do their best to make your child’s first dental visit a comfortable experience.
What happens during the first visit?
Your child’s first dental visit will mainly involve a visual inspection to make sure there is nothing unusual with your child’s teeth and gums. The dentist will also count your child’s teeth using a dental mirror, something that can be turned into a game. The dentist will take the time to answer any questions you or your child may have to create a positive, gentle experience.
As well as doing an oral examination, the dentist will assess the growth and development of your child’s teeth, and identify any risk of dental decay. The dentist will also teach your child about proper brushing techniques and the importance of healthy nutrition.
Ages four to six
The dentist might decide to take a radiograph (x-ray) when your child is aged between four and six. Digital x-rays are commonly used today as they use a much lower level of radiation than traditional x-rays, which makes them safer for all ages. An x-ray will allow the dentist to not only see the outside of your child’s teeth, but also what’s between the teeth and under the gum line. The dentist will be able to see any cavities and the number, size, and position of teeth under the gums. If there is any crowding of the adult teeth it can serve as an early warning of possible future orthodontic treatments.
Tips to be prepared
Kids are able to pick up on anxiety in their parents, so it is important to try and stay as light-hearted as possible to keep your child calm. If your child has any concerns about the dentist it is important to explain that it is a regular occurrence for everyone to stay healthy. Try to avoid using any negative words such as needle, pain, or drill.
It is generally best to book a morning appointment as kids are often tired after a long day at daycare, preschool, or school.
Child Dental Benefits Schedule
Eligible children aged between two and 18 in Australian have free basic dental care through the public system, which is part of the Commonwealth-funded Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS).The benefits of the basic dental services include:
• Fissure sealing
• Root canals
These services are capped at $1000 per child over two consecutive calendar years. Children won’t have to be on a waiting list and will be given the next available appointment.
Helping children keep their teeth healthy
Giving your child some hands-on help with oral hygiene during their early years can help them maintain good oral hygiene. Your child should have been told that it is important to brush their teeth twice a day by you and the dentist, but they will likely need help getting the right technique.
The best technique to teach your child is using small circular motions while keeping the toothbrush angled towards the gum line. You should also teach your child to floss when their teeth start touching, usually between the ages of two and three. Try to keep your child on a good routine and keeping teeth brushing at the same time each day, such as after breakfast and just before bed. Try to ensure that your child eats a variety of nutritious foods and drinks plenty of water, and avoid highly processed and sugary foods, as well as sugary drinks like juice or fizzy drink.
Brushing your child’s teeth
Before your child’s teeth appear you should wipe their gums twice a day with a wet cloth. When their teeth do appear, there are specifically designed baby-friendly brushes that will be gentle on their teeth and gums. Use plain water with no toothpaste once a day.
For children aged between 18 months and two years, you can begin to use small amounts of toothpaste containing low fluoride, making sure they learn to spit it out after brushing.
For children aged between two and eight, you can use a smear of regular toothpaste, or milk teeth toothpaste if they still have trouble spitting after they brush. Supervise your child while they are learning to brush their teeth on their own. Children up to the age of six often don’t have the dexterity required to brush their own teeth, so it can be helpful to let them try on their own before offering to help. They should be brushing twice a day for at least two minutes, usually after morning and evening meals.
You should replace your child’s toothbrush every three to four months, or when the bristles begin to fray.
It is not recommended to use a toothpaste containing fluoride for your child if they are under 18 months of age, as the exposure to fluoride can damage their young teeth. Flossing is encouraged from about two-and-a-half years of age, which is easiest to do by laying your child’s head in your lap, so you can have a good look at their teeth while you floss them. When your child gets to about six years of age it is a good idea to start letting them floss their own teeth so they can get into a good habit. We highly recommend young children watch the video on this page, especially when it’s their first visit as it explains to children what they can expect at the dentist visit and there by helps enormously in reducing their anxiety)