I naively thought it would all go smoothly, but the Little Lovely refused to open his mouth. I sat with him on the chair, with him in my lap. The dentist was very nice and seemed like she had experience in working with small children. She brought out some stickers and tried to gain his interest. He wasn’t very interested. She got a very quick glimpse in his mouth. We tried to encourage him to open his mouth again but he didn’t like it and got upset. The upside of this was that she could see into his mouth again. All that we learnt was that he is still missing his back molars (which we know…), and the dentist said he might be a bit grumpy if they are coming in. She said only to use a very small amount of toothpaste and asked if he had a varied diet. We were only there for about 5 minutes, if that. Oh well. But, she made the good point that at the next appointment (in 6 months) and future appointments, he should be more used to it because he would have been a few times. Good point, yes:
Desensitization (where the anxiety or emotional response to a situation/stimulus is reduced through repeated experience, or exposure to that situation/stimulus)
and habituation (reduced response from repeated exposure to the “thing” and over time because it doesn’t have the same impact any more)!
So the brief appointment wasn’t in vain.
Anyway, what do guidelines say about child tooth health? The NHS says about children’s teeth:
A regular teeth-cleaning routine is essential for good dental health
Obviously… and what else?
Start brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth breaks through… It’s important to use a fluoride paste as this helps prevent and control tooth decay
Below the age of three years, children should use just a smear of toothpaste.
And further information found here says:
Your child’s teeth should be brushed twice a day: last thing at night before bed and at least one other time
The amount of toothpaste used depends on your child’s age. For children under three years, use a smear or thin film of toothpaste that covers less than three-quarters of the brush.
Don’t let your child eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.
All children should use fluoride toothpaste…Children under three should use toothpaste containing no less than 1,000 ppm fluoride.
What about the dentist:
Take your child to the dentist when the first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can help prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage. Just opening up the child’s mouth for the dentist to take a look is useful practise for when they could benefit from future preventative care.
When you visit the dentist, be positive about it and make the trip fun. This will stop your child worrying about future visits.
Take your child for regular dental check-ups as advised by the dentist. NHS dental care for children is free.
Oh good, so this taps into the earlier points about gradually exposing the child to the dentist and dental environment so that it becomes normal and familiar. Also, associating the trip with something fun and exciting sounds like a good idea, so that it doesn’t seem like a big, scary thing.