Dental exams for children – when to book, what to expect and how to prepare!

Regular dental exams are essential for your child’s oral health and preventive care. They enable your dentist to detect problems early, when they’re most treatable, plan future care and provide tips to boost oral care.

 When to book

There are various factors which might determine how frequently your child needs an examination including age, health and risk of tooth decay. For babies aged 6 months to 1 year we recommend scheduling a dental examination after the first tooth erupts and no later than the first birthday. This helps establish a comprehensive relationship between the dentist and the child.

For toddlers, school-age children and adolescents we recommend scheduling regular dental check-ups every six months. Fewer or more-frequent visits may be suggested depending on your child’s risk factors for oral health problems.

What to expect

During a dental exam, we will clean your child’s teeth and evaluate risk of tooth decay. The exam may involve applying a sealant or fluoride to reduce the risk of decay, as well as dental X-rays and other diagnostic procedures. There will be an opportunity to discuss your child’s diet and oral hygiene habits while demonstrating proper brushing and flossing techniques. Other topics may include preventing oral injuries or, for adolescents, the health risks associated with tobacco, substance abuse and oral piercings.

More specifically, for infants aged 6 months to 1 year your dentist will look for sores or bumps on your child’s tongue, inside the cheeks, and on the roof of the mouth. We will also evaluate the impact of habits such as pacifier use and thumb sucking.

For toddlers, school-age children and adolescents, your dentist will carry out a thorough check of your child’s oral hygiene and overall health. This may include applying sealants to permanent molars and other back teeth susceptible to decay and repair work to cavities or tooth defects. A further examination of the bite will evaluate any problems in the way your child’s upper and lower teeth fit together. Following analysis recommendations may be made for pre-orthodontic treatment, such as a special mouthpiece, or orthodontic treatment, such as braces, to straighten your child’s teeth or adjust the bite. As your child gets older, dental exams might also include discussions about the possible removal of wisdom teeth at the appropriate age, usually at age 16.

How to prepare

 You can schedule your child’s first dental examination with Maida Smiles’ pediatric dentist Dr Ines Do Carmo who provides care specifically to children, from infants to teens. Before you book your appointment read the brief tips below to help you prepare, especially if your child is anxious.

  • Carefully time your child’s visit. Schedule the appointment for a time of day when he or she is rested and most likely to cooperate.
  • Be positive. Avoid using words such as ‘pain’ ‘shot’ or ‘hurt”. Instead, explain that the dentist will use special tools to make sure your child’s teeth are healthy. Remind your child that you visit the dentist, but avoid mentioning any negative dental experiences you might have had.
  • Listen to your child. Encourage your child to share worries about visiting the dentist or having a dental exam.
  • Play Pretend Dentist at Home – Get your child acquainted with some of the little details, so it’s less daunting and removes any fear of the unknown. Try giving your child a mirror and a ‘counting stick’ and ask them to count your teeth. Encourage them to give an opinion on the health of your mouth too. If you have fillings, make it clear that these are to be avoided, but you must explain why.
  • Eat Beforehand – It is common for parents to withhold food until after the dentist, both for the sake of convenience and to provide a treat afterwards. However, nothing makes a little one grouchier than an empty stomach. Stick to light foods, just in case there is any queasiness or stomach ache.
  • Invent a ‘Safety Signal’ – If you are worried that your child might get frightened and panic while in the dentist chair, particularly when they are with their mouth open and feeling vulnerable, talk to them beforehand and come up with a ‘safety signal.’ If they give you this signal, you will tell the dentist to briefly step away and allow them a few moments.