Kids grow up so fast. Before you know it, their first teeth are coming in! Children’s dental exams are an important part of monitoring their health as they grow. Since many adults have anxieties about their own dental appointments, we understand that they may be nervous about bringing their kids. Rest assured: we’re trained and experienced, and love working with children!
Because family is so important to us, we pride ourselves on being a family dental practice. We love watching children grow up in our practice, from their first loose tooth to their own kid’s first appointments. “It’s fantastic,” Dr. Henritze exclaimed. “One of my favorite things, and one of the reasons I went into dentistry, is because I love people. To see people I treated at 3 years old still coming back as college students is awesome.” It’s an honor to be trusted by so many families in the Roanoke area. We work hard to ensure even our youngest patients have positive experiences.
In order to help children grow accustomed to the dental chair, Dr. Henritze suggests parents bring them as toddlers to their own appointments. “The biggest deterrent to being scared when it comes time for their first visit is having watched a parent or older sibling get their teeth cleaned,” he says. While Dr. Henritze suggests waiting until they’re 3 years old to have their first exam, “if you bring your 1-2-year-old with you, we can take a look to determine if there are any concerns.” This way children are being exposed to the dentist before it’s time for their actual cleaning.  
We don’t gauge “success” in a child’s visit based on how long they can keep their mouth open. Kids are kids: full of energy and excitement and ready to share stories with us. We understand that it’s hard to sit still for a long time, or that they may be afraid during this new experience. “Our goal is for a child to be receptive to at least a quick glance in their mouths, and to leave the office with a smile and a ‘thank you,’” Dr. Henritze explained. Learning what the dentist is like may take time for some children, and that’s okay. We will never force a child to open their mouth. Instead, we hope to make their experience comfortable, so they feel safe in our chairs and in our care. Even if they only allow a quick glance at their teeth, we consider all our appointments “successful.” “You can tell a lot from just a quick glance,” Dr. Henritze said.
Communication is key in a successful children’s appointment. We want to get to know you, your family, and your children. Tell us if they’re nervous, afraid, or even excited to be at the dentist! If there are any other concerns you have for them, both for the exam and for care at home, let us know. We want to come alongside parents to help them & their children feel equipped to support great oral health outside the office.
The best things you can do as a parent are to maintain their oral health habits at home and restrict sugar consumption. You will need to brush your child’s teeth for them until they have the motor skills necessary to brush themselves; good dental health means they need to be brushing well, so it may be some time before they’re able to effectively brush on their own. Children between the ages of 5-7 can normally begin brushing without assistance. And young children who see their parents brushing twice a day are more likely to do so themselves. Family brushing time can also help the child feel as though brushing is fun and not a chore.
Preventative care is important, too. Mouth bacteria feeds on sugar deposits, so limiting the amount of sugar your child consumes will prevent build-up and decay. “Sticky candy is by far the worst for your mouth,” Dr. Henritze said. “It stays on teeth for hours.” While candy and soda are okay in moderation, be sure to brush a child’s teeth immediately following any sticky or gummy candy.
We hope you’ll trust us to take care of your family’s oral care needs, from your youngest to your eldest member. If you or your child is nervous about their exam, give us a call and we’ll talk everything through. We welcome you to make an appointment today, and we’d be delighted to see you!