April is Oral Health Month: focus on your teeth and your oral health!
Did you know…
there is a direct correlation to a healthy mouth and overall health?
For toddlers and preschoolers, this is a good time in your child’s life to build habits that will protect the teeth and lay the foundation for future health.
Both of my children showed signs of general anxiety quite early on in their lives. It started off as separation anxiety, but also turned into stranger anxiety and more in certain circumstances. I knew that visiting the dentist would be a challenge for my son, in particular, so I started preparing him at a very early age.
Visiting the dentist used to be a family affair for us. Our dentist used to expect that when any member of our family had an appointment that all four of us would come. It was important to me that our children learned how important dental visits were and that it was a safe place with people we could trust. We ended up taking our children for their first dental visit at the age of three.
From the time that my children were infants, they would either sit in Mommy or Daddy’s lap and watch the other adult get their teeth cleaned and they would also have a little ride in the dental chair at the end of our visit. We tried to make it a fun environment and give them an experience that they would enjoy.
Consistency is important with children (some more than others), so we felt it was important that they got to know the same hygienist and dentist every single time. I will be honest, this helps with my comfort levels too. I can honestly say that I have made a friend with my hygienist and I fully trust her and look forward to my visits with her. My children now also love her and while there have been some situations where we have seen other staff, she is our constant. Just like with so many things in life, relationships are KEY. Finding someone who you feel comfortable with definitely helps put you at ease.
Here are some tips for helping your child have a successful first dental visit:
- Bring them with you for a simple visit to the dental office – this can be as simple as saying hello to the receptionist and getting a sticker.
- Allow them to sit in the chair BEFORE their first visit – this allows them to experience sitting in the BIG chair for a “ride” with no other expectations. It’s all about building trust.
- Have some distractions ready – perhaps watching a show on a cell phone, listening to music or even a new fidget toy will help them sit still in the chair for their first few visits.
- Practice role play at home – ask your dentist office if you can have a dental mask and a pair of gloves to take home. You can dress up as the dentist and your child can be the patient. You can also have your child dress up as the dentist (after you have shown them what a dentist does) and play dentist with their dolls and stuffed animals. Go through the whole process of counting their teeth like the dentist does.
- Give the common tools that a dentist uses fun names– “Mr. Buzzy” for the brush and “Mrs. Thirsty” for the spit sucker are a good start.
- If your child is hesitant about the tools, give them the opportunity to touch them BEFORE the dentist uses them in their mouth.
- The day after your visit, have your child draw them a picture of their experience at the dentist and take it over to give to your dentist. This continues the positive experience and will give your child the opportunity to form a solid memory.
- Take a photo of your child sitting in the dental chair – print the photo and put it up somewhere where your child will see it every day, perhaps on the bathroom mirror or on your fridge. If you can get the dentist to be in the photo, this will help your child become familiar with seeing them on a regular basis.
Some more tips for you regarding your toddler/preschooler and their oral health:
- For infants and children under three years of age, talk to your dentist about the best way to brush your child’s teeth, and whether use of toothpaste is appropriate
- If your preschooler is three years of age or older you should assist your child with brushing their teeth. Brush twice per day and use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste and does not swallow it
- Feed your child from all food groups and limit sugary foods or drinks
- After eating sugary or sticky foods like raisins, brush your child’s teeth, rinse the mouth with water or serve juicy fruits/vegetables to clean the teeth
- Don’t let your child constantly sip on sugary liquids, including milk and juice from sippy cups. Offer these liquids only at mealtimes
- Begin flossing when your child’s teeth are touching
- Change your child’s toothbrush every one to three months or immediately after an illness. Never share your toothbrush with your child or use your child’s toothbrush
- Let your child watch you brushing your teeth as often as possible. Children are wonderful imitators, and there’s nothing like a parent’s example to teach them the way to healthy dental practices
These tips are shared from the Ontario Dental Association.
I encourage you to book an appointment to see an Ontario Dentist today to ensure your mouth is in a healthy state!
Use this FREE PRINTABLE for you to use to track how often your child is taking care of their teeth:
To print out the full-size version of this, go here.
Most dental diseases, including tooth decay, are easier to treat and cost less time, pain and money if detected early, so be sure to book an appointment to see your dentist now.
Are you looking for a dentist in your area?
Visit The Ontario Dental Association to find
a dentist near you.
Disclaimer: Although this post has been generously sponsored by The Ontario Dental Association, the opinions and language are my own.