The article is a general guide. In all specific circumstances, please consult your child’s dentist.
When should my child first visit the dentist?
A very important part of your child's dental health care is for him or her to feel comfortable and relaxed when visiting the dentist. As dentists, we encourage children to visit with their parents when they are very small, as early as one year old . This allows familiarization with the environment and also an opportunity for the parent to discuss the oral health of their child with the dentist and gain valuable advice.
It is a good idea to schedule an examination for the child together with the parent, so that he or she can watch the parent in the chair and see that it is a fun experience (as long as the parent is relaxed the child will feel relaxed).
Once children have developed a rapport with the dentist, they will be willing to open their mouth, if nothing else but to show off their beautiful smile.
Following that, children can visit the dentist for their own appointments every six months. This ensures that they are comfortable with the surroundings of a dental office and that if they need treatment it will be a positive experience.
As soon as the first tooth appears in the mouth it is important to clean the child's teeth twice a day. For babies this is done without toothpaste. From the age of two a pea-sized amount of toothpaste should be used. Parents should supervise tooth brushing for children under the age of seven. Tip: For those reluctant brushers often allowing them to brush your teeth before they allow you to brush theirs turns tooth brushing into a fun activity. In addition, you can ask your dentist to provide you with a tooth brushing sticker chart that the child has to complete before the next visit.
Which toothbrush and toothpaste to use is often decided by the child’s preference and taste buds, though your dentist’s office or pharmacy can guide you to what is age- appropriate.
The frequency and duration of sugar exposure (‘sugar attacks’) is a bigger determinant of dental health than the actual amount of sugar a child consumes. It is not how much sugar they eat or drink, but how many times a day. For example, eating a packet of candies during the course of an afternoon is far more damaging to dental health than scoffing them all down in the space of 10 minutes (frankly neither is recommended).
It is worth acknowledging that there is sugar in so-called healthy snacks such as yoghurts, Bamba and cornflakes.
To try and analyze this, I recommend that you keep a food diary for a whole week recording all food and drink that go into your child's mouth. Highlight all the ‘sugar attacks’ during the week and you will be able to see clearly their pattern and frequency. From here you will be able to begin to preserve dental health by regulating the ‘sugar attacks’, for example, by restricting sugary snacks and drinks to certain times in the week.
Of course, sugary drinks should be kept to a minimum for children and should not be served in teat-bottles. Generally milk and water are the most tooth-friendly drinks.
It is universally accepted and proven that fluoride prevents tooth decay. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated water generally provides the right amount of fluoride to protect our teeth. Many cities in Israel (not including Raanana) have fluoridated water. If your child does not drink fluoridated tap water or has a high caries (tooth decay) risk, you should discuss fluoride supplementation with your dentist.
Dr. Sara Whitefield is a practicing dentist. If you would like to discuss any of the points above or have any questions, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 09 744 0724, www.pearldental.co.il.