NHS dental care for children is free. Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can advise you on how to prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage. Just opening up the child’s mouth for the dentist to take a look at is useful practice for the future.
When you visit the dentist, be positive about it and make the trip fun. This will stop your child worrying about future visits.
It is a dentist’s goal to make a patient as comfortable as possible. Some accommodations that you may want to request are if you can stay near them throughout their visit, or if they can have a specific flavour of toothpaste. These may seem small but can make a difference in their overall dental experience.
Finding the right dentist
It’s important to find a great dentist for your child. Here are a few questions you can ask when deciding on a dentist that will help you decide who is best for your family.
The dentist you choose should be comfortable working with a patient with neurodivergent needs. Listen for specific examples of when a dentist worked with patients with neurodivergent needs. Dentist with previous experience will be more comfortable overall in ensuring visit runs smoothly and that your loved one is at ease.
Preparing for the appointment
Preparing for an appointment can give a child an idea of what to expect and help familiarize them with what dental appointments are like.
Here are some ways to prepare for your child’s appointment.
Find ways to visualize what happens at the dentist- Stories or videos can give the future patient a way to make a connection between the visual and their dental appointment.
Peppa Pig Goes to The Dentist:
Visit the dentist early– This is beneficial because it allows patients to familiarize themselves with the environment such as seeing the lights and hearing the sounds. You and your loved one can meet the officers and staff members and go over any accommodations that may need to be made.
A few useful strategies while you’re at the dentist are:
- Book appointments when it’s less busy.
- Be sure to allow plenty of time
- Remember to inform reception of health issues and medication.
- Ask for a quiet space to wait in.
- Your dentist can ask your child to raise a hand to show s/he needs attention.
In some circumstances, sedation can be used when a patient is feeling extreme anxiety towards the dentist. It can also be used if someone’s health is at risk, and they do not want to cooperate.
Overcoming Sensory Issues at the Dentist
Going to the dentist can be an overwhelming experience for children, especially those with sensory issues. When a child displays symptoms of a sensory processing difficulty, bright lights, loud noises, tastes, and smells can cause feelings of anxiety at the dentist.
In addition to preparing the child to know what to expect, with books or videos, distractions are an important part of overcoming sensory issues at the dentist that a child might face. They provide the child with something new to focus on instead of worrying about what is happening inside their mouth. If a child has a favourite toy or “fidget item”, they should bring it to the appointment as well.
Another great distraction is a movie or television show that a child enjoys. Many dental offices have a screen available, but if not, parents can bring an iPad or portable DVD player. During the appointment, the child can focus on what is on the screen rather than the noises and feelings surrounding their mouth.
You may also want to consider adjustment that your child uses in other busy/stimulating environments such as a small, weighted lap blanket that can be used around the shoulders also; noise cancelling headphones or earbuds with calming sounds or a pair of favourite sunglasses.
Cavities and fillings
Cavities are one of the most common dental problems in toddlers and children. Also referred to as tooth decay, a cavity is a permanently damaged area in a tooth.
Cavities occur when a buildup of dental plaque eats at tooth enamel and causes a hole. Plaque is a sticky substance that covers teeth, and it forms when bacteria in the mouth combines with food, acid, and saliva. Since regular brushing and flossing can prevent a buildup of plaque, cavities often develop when children don’t properly brush their teeth.
Tooth decay doesn’t always cause pain, so recognising a cavity in your child can be difficult. Signs that indicate a possible cavity include:
- dark spots on the tooth
- white spots on the tooth
- crying or fussiness
- sensitivity to cold foods or drinks
- mouth swelling
- avoiding food
If you suspect a cavity, make an appointment with a dentist. They can examine your child’s teeth for signs of decay and then recommend treatment based on the extent of tooth decay.
How are cavities in children treated?
A dental filling is common for toddlers and children who have one or more cavities. Fillings can take place on permanent teeth, as well as on baby teeth.
During the procedure, the dentist removes the tooth decay and then fills the hole with a white composite or metal material. Filling a cavity that forms on a baby tooth can save or preserve the tooth.
Saving the tooth is important because losing baby teeth prematurely can cause a permanent tooth to improperly come in. Baby teeth also help with your child’s chewing and speaking. Dentists perform dental fillings on children and toddlers, sometimes as young as 1 or 2 years old.
Children who play sports are at an increased risk for oral trauma. This includes jaw fractures, broken teeth, and injuries to the mouth’s soft tissues. Mouth guards dramatically reduce the risk of oral injuries during sports. Make sure you wear a mouth guard.
The teenage years are a common time for orthodontic treatment. Braces are the most commonly used orthodontic treatment to fix a misaligned smile. An orthodontist typically places braces when a child or teen is between 10 and 15. Older teens and young adults are also candidates for braces.
Smile:Together CIC (Community Interest Company)
Specialist Dental Services
Smile Together provides a Special Care Dentistry Referral Service in Cornwall to those patients whose oral care cannot be met through other NHS primary care providers owing to additional needs (medical, physical or behavioural). Many patients referred for Special Care dental services only require the skills of that service for some or all interceptive procedures. Routine examination, oral health assessment and preventive care can be managed quite satisfactorily in general dental practice, and it is expected that the referring practitioner will continue to see their patients for such. All patients accepted to the service should remain registered with their General Dental Practitioner. Most patients will be discharged back to their General Dental Practitioner following completion of the course of treatment unless their needs identify them as appropriate for long term care. Some patients will be discharged to their General Dental Practitioner after assessment with an appropriate treatment plan.