Childhood is full of firsts—first words, first steps and first birthdays. With every first a child experiences, their rush of excitement can also be accompanied by fear of the unknown. This is often the case with a child’s first trip to the dentist.
To alleviate dental jitters, we asked pediatric dentist Dr. Mark A. Huie, a pediatric dentist of Ocean of Smiles in Newport News, for his top tips and tricks for making a child’s first cleaning successful. Looking back over his 15 years of experience, he shared with us the best methods to guarantee a smooth dental visit, awareness of common pediatric dental issues and easy-to-follow instructions for at-home oral care.
At what age do children typically receive their first teeth cleaning?
Dr. Mark A. Huie: We recommend that you make an appointment to see the dentist as soon as your child gets [his or her] first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children be seen six months after their first tooth erupts, or at 1 year of age—whichever comes first.
What can parents do to best prepare children for their first dental appointment?
MH: The best preparation for your child’s first visit is maintaining a positive attitude. Children pick up on adults’ apprehensions, and if you make negative comments about trips to the dentist, you can be sure that your child will fear an unpleasant experience.
Is there anything special you do to make a child’s first dental experience go smoothly?
MH: The main goal at our office is to help the children learn to love visiting the dentist. Our office is geared toward young visitors. You’ll find that our staff, as well as our office design, decorations and activities all work together to provide an especially friendly and comfortable environment for children.
What is the most common issue you see in pediatric dentistry, and what is the preferred treatment?
MH: Tooth decay. Sugary liquids such as sodas and juices need to be avoided. Brushing twice a day and flossing between teeth can [also] help prevent tooth decay.
Are there any other foods or drinks parents should be mindful of that may jeopardize a child’s oral health?
MH: Children should avoid frequent snacking and sticky, chewy foods like fruit snacks. They should be drinking milk and water.
At what age do children start to lose teeth?
MH: Children start losing teeth anytime from 5 to 7 years old, but having a loose tooth as young as age 4 is still considered normal.
Are there any dos or don’ts to be aware of when it comes to lose teeth?
MH: You should just let nature take its course. Let your child wiggle their loose teeth.
What are your top three at-home dental care tips for children?
MH: You should brush your child’s teeth for [them] until [they are] ready to take on that responsibility [themselves], which usually happens by age 8. Limit sugary drinks like juice and soda. Use only a tiny amount of toothpaste for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under 2 because too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children.