First Time at the Dentist: What Parents Should Know


According to 2011 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, more than 19 per cent of children ages 2 to 19 have untreated cavities. The Canadian Dental Association encourages the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age. We adults often have our own fears about going to the dentist, so can you imagine what our little ones go through? We spoke to dentist and masalamomma, Amanika Luciani, about what tips she offers to parents when taking a child to the dentist.

What do you do when you’re faced with a child who seems to have a fear of being at the dentist’s office and what can parents do to help?

Luciani: Kids that are anxious often don’t make eye contact and that to me is the first sign that they don’t trust the dentist. If that happens, communication is the key. We show them all of our tools and we try not to surprise them with the loud noise of the suctions or the hand pieces; we let them hear those before we start. We rename all of our tools to bring the whole experience down to their level.  Sometimes we find it’s actually easier if parents wait in the waiting room while we treat the child but if the child needs the parent to stay then it’s really great when a parent just holds their hand for comfort but lets the Dental team walk the child through the whole experience.


What can parents do to prepare for their dental visit?

Luciani: Parents should talk to their children and prepare them for what they will encounter at the dentist. If a child is coming in for a filling on a tooth that will require some freezing, a parent could tell the child ahead of time that the tooth will need to go to sleep to be fixed. Children trust their parents so I think it’s always best when the idea of a “needle” is explained by the parents, not by the dentist. It is very scary for a child to hear about– or what’s worse to see — the needle if no one has prepared them for it.  Parents can talk up the experience. Tell them how clean and shiny their teeth will feel. Tell them it tickles when they have their teeth polished and explain that mommy and daddy get their teeth cleaned often and why teeth are important.


When is sedation used and is that recommended?

Luciani: Lots of procedures on children can be done with local anesthetic alone. In some cases you could use nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to help relieve the anxiety.  Most often in my practices we use local anesthetic delivered only to the tooth we are treating.  And the kids leave with a smile and a photo taken for our ‘wall of fame’ knowing that their tooth will ‘wake up’ when they go home.  Kids with multiple large carious lesions can certainly benefit from oral sedation.


Can you recommend any books that parents can read with their children that might help?

Dora Goes to the Dentist, The Berenstain Bears. There are a lot of other books available at most bookstores as well.


What is the best age for the first dental visit? What should parents do before picking the right dentist/dental practice for their child?

Luciani: Children usually have their full complement of primary teeth (20 in total)   by age 2. Some are later and some are earlier. By this time it can be a good idea to start to bring the child to the dentist, if not for their own appointment, then for what’s called “desensitization.”  It’s a process whereby the child becomes familiar with the dental chair and watches how all the tools are used, and on repeat visits with mom/dad we slowly start to encourage the child to let us look into his/her mouth. We can then assess the development of the primary teeth and also assess the oral hygiene of the child. In this way we try to teach and promote preventative dentistry and good oral hygiene protocols from a young age to both parent and child. By the age of three a child that follows this path should be having the first cleaning visit with a comprehensive examination as well.


How do you decide which dentist’s office is the right one for your child?

Luciani: In my opinion  parents should book hygiene appointments for themselves first and take the child along with them to the visit to sit and watch the whole procedure so the child sees that mom/dad is okay, and that way the parents can get a feel for the staff and the friendliness in that office.


About Amanika Luciani:

Dr. Amanika  Luciani is licensed with the Ontario Dental Association and the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario.   She has a 3-year-old daughter and has two dental practices in Mississauga; Mavis Dental Centre in downtown Mississauga and Dentistry in the Village in Port Credit.

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