When I was growing up, teeth were a big topic of conversation in our house. You see, I come from a dental family.
My Dad was a dentist and so were several of his cousins. My step-father was a dentist too, and then my brothers both became … you got it… dentists.
Since my siblings and I were exposed to the world of dentistry as youngsters, to us, going to the dentist was never a scary proposition. In fact, from the age of 9 I worked in my step-father’s office on Saturdays. Imagine the shock a patient might experience when walking into the dentist’s office for fillings and the assistant turned out to be a tiny little girl. But I got so good at mixing filling material and amalgam, sterilizing instruments and working the suction, that patients started to ask to book on Saturdays just to be with me.
As kids, we readily stepped into the chair for our quarterly visits to the dental hygienist. Since we knew the inner workings of the office, we knew exactly what was happening—in detail. What fun was it to help develop our own X-rays and see all of our teeth, in black and white. We even helped out to clean up our operatory after we were done. And even though we were the dentist’s kids, we still got to choose prizes from the treasure chest.
It seems to be in my DNA to know that good oral health and a beautiful smile is key for general health and affects our physical, mental and social well-being, and can have an impact on life going forward. So when I had my kids, I made sure to expose them to the dentist from an early age. Sure, it was convenient. They could just visit Grandpa, Papa, or Uncle at his office any time they wanted. But the benefits of just ‘dropping in’ to watch them work were tenfold. When it was time for each kid to take their turn in the chair, the whole experience went easy peasy.
I can rest easy with the knowledge that they’ve built a lifelong habit of attending the dentist at regular intervals. When it comes to teeth, monitoring and prevention are key, so we need to teach our kids to go every 3 to 6 months for a cleaning and exam. Most dental diseases, including tooth decay, are easier to treat, cost less time, money and pain when detected early.
If you’ve got small kids and are wondering how you can get them making teeth a big deal, let me help you out. After all, I am a lifelong pro.
- Start cleaning your child’s gums and then teeth when they’re babies. You can use a soft cloth to wipe your child’s gums and a soft baby toothbrush once teeth come in. A good dental care habit starts from the very beginning. Speak to your dentist about how to clean your baby’s teeth if you are not sure.
- Get them used to the dentist. Bring your child with you to your own visits from about the age of 18 months or 2 and ask if they can sit in the chair and go for a ride. Most dentists will show the child the instruments and do a ‘pretend’ exam. They can start having their teeth cleaned at about the age of 3.
- Find a kid-friendly dental office. Look for a cheerful environment, play area or colouring table in the waiting room and trinkets or toys for after the successful appointment. Many offices also have TVs or ipads for distraction while the child is in the chair.
- If your child has special needs or seems anxious or fearful, a pedodontist is an option. Since they specialize in children, they’re equipped to deal with any issues, and can work faster and on a wriggling kid. I took my youngest, who has ADHD to one (obviously, my cousin) when he needed sealants in his rear molars.
- Turn dentist visits into a family outing. Make appointments for everyone on a PA day and then do something fun afterwards. It’s all about making it a positive experience!
Join the spirit of Oral Health Month and call your dentist today and make appointments for your whole family. If you don’t have a dentist, you can find one by clicking here.
I can’t wait to see all those beautiful smiles!