Preparing children for oral checkups

With a little preparation, getting children ready for their first visit to an oral health care provider need not be an apprehensive experience, according to the American Dental Hygienists' Association.

There are a number of specific actions parents can take to help a child enjoy a first visit to the dental hygienist and dentist.

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First of all, talk about the appointment in a positive way. This starts at home with parents setting a good example by brushing and flossing together with their children every day. Parents who may have had negative oral health care experiences should not communicate those feelings or any anxiety to children, as that will make them fearful.

Using a toothbrush, parents can demonstrate to a child how teeth might be cleaned by a dental hygienist. They can also explain that there will be some noise involved and that the oral health care providers will be wearing masks and gloves to protect themselves and the child from germs. In addition, dental hygienists recommend parents let their children watch them get their own teeth cleaned. They will realize that if it doesn't hurt their parents, it will not hurt them.

ADHA says most children should visit an oral health care provider for the first time at about age one and reminds parents oral hygiene at home for children should begin at birth. This ritual should include thorough cleaning of the child's mouth and gums with either a gauze pad or infant washcloth after feedings and before bedtime.

Once the baby's primary teeth appear, parents can use a small, soft-bristled infant toothbrush dampened with water to clean them gently. Later, by the age of two or three, parents can teach their children how to brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Parents should continue to help their children care for their teeth until age seven or eight, when they have enough dexterity to brush and floss alone.

By helping children learn oral hygiene early, parents can help to prevent cavities and other oral health problems.

For information on local dental care options, call the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition at 824-8000 or Colorado Northwestern Community College at 1-800-562-1105.

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