Well it’s your child’s first dental cleaning and your probably more anxious than your child is. This is normal for parents due to a possible bad experience you may have had as a kid or adult. It only takes one bad visit to undo ALL of the good dental visits to start a dental anxiety or fear.
That being said if you have dental anxiety don’t project your feelings, fear, or stress onto your child (I will discuss dental phobias and recommendations to help cope in a future post). This will only make your child more anxious and fearful for their appointment.
The typical age we start cleaning teeth is around 3 years old, unless your dental professional advises you otherwise. We usually start off the little ones with appointments called “Happy Visits.” This is where we try to get the child use to being in a dental chair, having a light shined on them, seeing us providers with masks and gloves on …etc. Sometimes we can’t even get into the child’s mouth or look at their teeth because they are scared or overwhelmed, which is fine! As a dental provider we don’t ever want to create a bad experience for the child, slow is better if that’s what the child needs.
However, if the child is mature enough and ready to receive their first cleaning it is usually a short and gentle cleaning. This includes scraping and polishing their teeth and removing any plaque, tartar, and stains. There usually is not much to clean at such a young age, but there is always a little something on the teeth. Flossing and fluoride will be done at the end of the cleaning and the hygienist will assess the need for fluoride. After the cleaning, the dentist will do a thorough exam and will evaluate to see if x-rays are needed. (x-rays are usually taken in the beginning of most appointments, but when kids are really young sometimes we will forgo the x-rays until they are older. However, if we see anything concerning or alarming then we will take them at an early age) At the end of the appointment we will discuss, demonstrate, and educate oral health basics to the child. We then will discuss dental development, any issues, and recommendations with the parents. We will also answer any questions you may have.
I want to mention one other thing! If you are asked to sit in the waiting room when your child is called back, there is a reason. There are studies and proven methods showing children will not react as much when their parent is not visible to them. I personally have used this method for certain children and it’s amazing to see the change in demeanor of a child when they know their mom, dad, or sibling are around. Some dental offices make it a policy to not allow parents or other siblings in the operatory when the child is receiving treatment. However, there are a few children/parents that insist on coming back to the room for the appointment. This is not a problem, but I wanted you to be aware there is a method to the madness and reasons why dental professionals don’t always like parents in the operatory.
At the end of the cleaning most dental offices will give your child a goodie bag full of children’s dental products and hopefully a few little toys to reward them for doing such a great job! Usually before you leave, the office will schedule another routine dental cleaning and check-up to take place in six months.
Once your child has their first dental cleaning and you establish a good homecare routine, you will become an avid dental partner along with us dental professionals for your child. This will set your child up in the best way possible!!!