What families need to know about going to the dentist

Whether talking about baby teeth or braces, or just healthy smiles in general, parents usually have so many questions (and sometimes anxiety) surrounding dentist visits. Here are answers to some common questions parents may have about their family’s dental health.

When should I schedule my baby’s first visit? 

According to MouthHealthy.com, the consumer site for The American Dental Association, your baby should visit the dentist by his/her first birthday. Once baby has teeth, schedule a “well-baby checkup” so the dentist can tell you with how to brush to avoid cavities, how to floss and how to manage a thumb sucker. 

Which toothpaste should my kids be using? 

This is absolutely a personal choice. The ADA suggests that you brush with a toothpaste that includes fluoride. If that doesn’t work with your philosophy, then go with your gut and do what works for your family. You can purchase fluoride-less toothpaste, or even make your own. Just keep an eye on young brushers to ensure they aren’t swallowing any. 

If baby is too young for any toothpaste or still toothless, dentists still encourage cleaning his/her gums with a wet washcloth. 

When should my kids floss?

As soon as your baby has two teeth that touch, it is time to floss. Create healthy habits as early as possible. Yes, yes, you may think it isn’t worth wrestling your toddler down to floss, but this is an instance where modeling healthy behavior is key. 

How often should I schedule dentist visits? 

It’s important to have children’s (and your own) teeth cleaned and examined, so schedule cleaning appointments twice a year. Poor oral hygiene is closely related to a number of health ailments so make trips to the dentist a part of your annual routine. 

To go into the exam room or not to go into the exam room?

Allowing parents into the exam room is often presented as an “office policy.” Before scheduling your appointment, ask about this. Some dental offices find that parents’ anxiety heighten the children’s own anxiety, making the entire exam more stressful for all. Other dentists will allow you to sit in the exam chair or just in the room with your child. 

What is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? 

A dentist specialises in the general oral health of teeth, gums and nerves, while an orthodontist is a specialist focused on correcting bites and alignment. 

At what age should I consider braces? 

The days of the awkward, metal mouth high school photos are gone. Children are getting braces as early as 7 and 8. Families are sometimes advised to align baby teeth to allow for better aligned adult teeth. Speak with your dentist or an orthodontist to determine a unique plan for your kiddo’s smile, or even your own. 

How can I manage bad breath?

First and foremost, brush and floss. If you have a bridge or dentures, make sure you are following all suggestions for flossing and cleaning twice daily. Another simple tip is to chew more, which creates saliva and keeps your mouth from getting dry. If you are struggling with bad breath that isn’t managed by a healthy daily routine, schedule a visit with your dentist, as greater concerns may exist. 

How should I prepare kids for a visit to the dentist?

A simple internet search will confirm that every major cartoon character, from Curious George to Dora the Explorer and Elmo, all have a book or TV episode related to visiting the dentist. Start there with younger children. For adults with anxiety about visiting the dentist, researching a dentist that understands your feelings is key, and meditation can help, too. Yes, it can be scary, but it shouldn’t be impossible. You can do it! 

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