Learn how to keep your kids’ chompers healthy for life.
Schedule that First Check-up
“My daughter was curious about my visits, so we got her to try out ‘the chair’,” says Australian expat Jacqueline Yuan, a mum of two. At the next visit, Jacqueline’s 3-year-old was fine with having her teeth checked. “It also helped that there was a glove-balloon and stickers at the end!” Jacqueline says. In general, schedule a first appointment for your child between 12 and 18 months of age – or when his or her first tooth erupts, advises Dr. Trevor Holcombe, a children's dentist at Smilefocus dental clinic. This quick visit (which may even be free) will familiarise your child with the process and identify any risk factors for tooth decay in his or her habits or diet (see below).
Pick the Right Doc
How to you find a good dentist? Seek personal recommendations, including ones from online expat groups. “For children, start by asking your own dentist,” says Dr. Holcombe. “Both you and your child should feel comfortable with the doctor’s chair-side manner.” You can also look for references and even book online with clinics and doctors at DocDoc. If your child has specific dental problems (e.g., misaligned teeth from thumb-sucking, sensitive teeth, over-retained baby teeth), you may need to see a paedodontist, a dentist who specialises in treating children’s teeth.
The goal: treat dental visits as routine and low-key without (unconsciously) instilling any fear of the dentist in your little one. But getting kids enthusiastic about seeing the dentist may not be an easy feat. “My 4-year-old son was very nervous at his first visit and required a lot of reassuring,” says Kate Eidsvik, a Canadian-born mum of three. Dr. Holcombe says Kate did the right thing – being patient. He also recommends scheduling appointments earlier in the day “when your child is full of energy and not tired or cranky.” Something else to know: Children often respond better to dentists without their parents present in the room, so be prepared to wait outside. If your child is still too frightened or uncooperative, consider rescheduling the visit for another time.
Begin Good Habits Early
As soon as children have teeth and are able to hold a toothbrush, encourage healthy oral hygiene with brushing twice a day. “I get the kids to brush once a day, and I brush for them once as well – until they can do it properly on their own,” shares Kate. The doctor concurs: Most children aren’t dextrous enough to brush thoroughly until they’re about 7 or 8. As for flossing, try to have your child do it at least once or twice a week until he or she can master it daily. Give them lots of inspiration, too. “My girls watch my husband and I when we floss and brush our teeth,” says Jacqueline. Another fun idea: Try a plaque-disclosing dye, which shows areas like baby molars that kids might have missed.
Kiddie Snacks that Bite
Beyond the obvious – candy, cola and desserts – consider limiting these common treats.
- Fruit juices: To cut some of the cavity-causing sugar, dilute juice by at least half with water.
- Carbonated soft drinks of any kind: Even sugar-free or low calorie sodas tend to be highly acidic, which takes a toll on tooth enamel.
- Dried fruit and pretzels: The sticky bits or salt crystals can stay lodged between teeth for prolonged periods of time, which increases plaque build-up. Encourage healthier snack options such as calcium-rich cheese, which helps protect teeth from decay-causing
By Priyanka Elhence, The Finder, December 2015