Nanny and Au Pair Health Care Series
By Anne Merchant, Author of The Nanny Textbook
By the time children have reached their second birthday they are ready for their first visit to the dentist. It is important that the first dental visit be relaxing and uneventful. Be certain not to relay any negative feelings about visiting the dentist with youngsters. Any anxiety could cause children to fear going to the dentist which could affect their dental health for years to come, since people who fear dental visits avoid going for regular visits.
As soon as the first teeth appear, caring for teeth should become part of the daily routine for children.
How to Clean Baby Teeth
From birth until after teeth have erupted, use a piece of gauze or damp wash cloth to help remove plaque at bath time, at which time caregivers may introduce soft bristle toothbrushes.
Preventing Dental Disease
Never put babies to bed with a bottle. Not only is it dangerous since it may cause choking, but liquids like milk, formula, and juices can cause nursing bottle syndrome. Nursing bottle syndrome is a dental disease that rots the teeth, causing teeth to crumble. This may first appear as white spots on the teeth, which may later turn into yellow or brown spots. Early detection can prevent further decay and discomfort.
Nannies can help with the responsibility of caring for children's teeth until they are about the age of seven. Preschoolers and young school-age children are not yet ready to care for their teeth properly without help from adult caregivers.
The Proper Toothbrush
Buy child-sized brushes with soft bristles that do not scratch gums. Never use a brush with hard bristles.
The Proper Way to Brush
The proper way to brush teeth is to hold the toothbrush at a 45 ° angle facing bristles where the gum line ends and tooth begins. This helps loosen and remove harmful bacteria before it is lodged under the gums. Gently brush all teeth surfaces thoroughly and both sides and top.
Setting a Good Example
Children learn better when caregivers illustrate the proper tooth brushing procedures for them. Nannies may want to brush their teeth at the same time as the children. Children love to imitate grown-ups and nannies can help with this important hygiene task at the same time.
Before Visiting the Dentist
1. Prepare children by explaining that the visit to the dentist in a very simple conversation. For example, start by saying, “Oh by the way...”
2. "The dentist is the tooth doctor and we have to go for a checkup."
3. "You will sit in a Mommy, (Daddy), size chair that can move up and down so the dentist can look in your mouth."
4. Nannies should role-play the dentist visit by pretending to be the dentist to help prepare children for the initial visit.
Prevention is Half the Battle
Do not give children soft drinks, candy, (especially sticky candy like licorice or taffy). Get in the habit of providing snacks like fresh fruit and vegetables to children. Nannies should check their teeth and clean them at least daily as soon as the first tooth appears. Ask the doctor about fluoride drops if their town water does not contain fluoride.
Have you had any positive or negative experiences taking children to the dentist?