This month you can show affection for your kids with a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates and you can also demonstrate love for your little ones as you celebrate National Children’s Dental Month together.
It’s not that chocolate is a totally bad thing. But parents have a responsibility to teach their children to brush and floss right away after candy is consumed. Look to your dentist to provide some words of wisdom that will get kids on the right track early. Here are some basic tips:
- Let your little ones watch you brush and floss. Chances are they’ll want to imitate you. That’s when you present them with a present—their very own kid’s tooth brush;
- Play dentist with your child. They can count your teeth; you count theirs. Some dentists will allow well-behaved children to sit next to you during your regular visit. This allays their fears and lets them understand that visiting the dentist is an easy, routine procedure;
- Let them sit on your lap during their first dental visit. Not only can mom or dad promise to have a special prize awaiting for good behavior; many dentists have their own rewards such as popular stickers or a treasure chest from which a child can select a coveted prize;
- Ask the dentist for a tour. Some dentists have special names for their instruments and even create games that kids will enjoy during the examination. Introducing them to all the components of an exam helps the child ease into the process;
- Think about distractions. Cartoons and headsets have become standard at many practices. One office paints girls’ fingernails during the exam (and boys upon request).
The looming question is when to schedule a child’s first dental exam. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a visit as soon as the first tooth is fully visible. Others see it wise to wait until the age of one or two so that the dentist can ensure the teeth are coming in properly, the child’s bite is satisfactory and there are no problems with the jaw bone. Baby teeth are important. They help in chewing, aid in speech development, save space for the permanent teeth to appear and produce a beautiful smile for those proud-parent photos.
X-rays normally start around the age of five. Ages six-12 fall into the prevention stage. Sealant, a plastic resin, bonds to the chewing surfaces and provides cavity protection.
This Valentine’s Day you can shower love upon your child not only with toys and a candy valentine, but with a fun and important visit to the dentist as you celebrate National Children’s Dental Month together. Who knows? It might be the start of a new family tradition.
Dr. Shelley Shearer is a graduate of the University of Louisville Dental School and Founder of Shearer Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Florence.