First den­tal visit

When should your child start go­ing to the den­tist?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.AGE - By ELAINE DONG startwo@thes­tar.com.my

When should your child start go­ing to the den­tist?

Most new par­ents won­der when they should send their kids for their first den­tal visit. Well, den­tal hy­giene should be­gin as soon as baby cuts his first tooth.

“With ba­bies, you don’t need tooth­paste. Just use a damp cloth to wipe the tooth,” says den­tist Dr Hooi Sek Kee from Da­mansara Heights Den­tal Cen­tre in Kuala Lumpur. The first den­tal visit should be sched­uled six months af­ter the ap­pear­ance of the first tooth. There­after, a visit ev­ery six to nine months would be ideal.

At home, he ad­vo­cates us­ing tooth­paste only when the child is old enough to know not to swal­low the tooth­paste and how to rinse his or her mouth out.

“Whether or not the tooth­paste con­tains flu­o­ride is not the is­sue as long as the child doesn’t swal­low it. We’re more concerned about younger kids in­gest­ing flu­o­ride be­cause they don’t know how to spit yet,” says Dr Hooi.

Un­til the first mo­lars ap­pear, which is usu­ally about 16 months of age, a damp cloth is suff­fi­cient for clean­ing teeth. Once the mo­lars are out, par­ents would need to brush chil­dren’s teeth as food could get stuck in the crevices of the big­ger teeth.

Good habits

He ad­vises par­ents to clean chil­dren’s teeth af­ter each feed­ing. If that’s not fea­si­ble, then at least get them to drink plain wa­ter af­ter a meal to pre­vent food from stick­ing to teeth.

Yvonne Low, 35, is a mother of two, and whose chil­dren are Dr Hooi’s pa­tients. She be­came concerned about her chil­dren’s den­tal health when she lived in Singapore for a short stint. Dur­ing her two years there, she found tooth wipes con­tain­ing xyl­i­tol, a sugar al­co­hol sweet­ener, which she uses to clean her kids’ teeth.

“They’re very con­ve­nient for young chil­dren. I try to clean my chil­dren’s teeth af­ter ev­ery meal. When we’re out, I find it easy to just give their teeth a quick wipe with the tooth tis­sues. At night, when my eight­month-old falls asleep af­ter drink­ing milk, I can gen­tly wipe his teeth,” she says.

When Low re­turned to Malaysia in April this year, she couldn’t find the wipes here and bought her sup­plies from Singapore. This en­ter­pris­ing mum then de­cided to bring the prod­uct to other mums here. She be­gan sell­ing the wipes on­line on Fab Moms ‘N’ Tots, an e-com­merce site she started last April.

Other than dili­gent home­care, reg­u­lar vis­its to the den­tist are very im­por­tant. The younger you get your child used to vis­its to the den­tist, the eas­ier it is on the child.

“Most peo­ple bring their kids at three or four years old, when the child has a rea­son­ably full mouth of teeth. Usu­ally dur­ing the first visit, I don’t do any clean­ing and pol­ish­ing. It is more of a con­sul­ta­tion and get­ting the child com­fort­able with the place. I will show the child the tools I use to clean teeth with, let him sit in the chair and check his teeth. If there is any­thing that needs to be done, I would sched­ule an­other visit. If not, the next visit can be six months away, when I’ll pol­ish and clean the teeth,” says Dr Hooi, who added that ev­ery visit usu­ally lasts about half an hour.

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