The dental question I am asked the most...

By dentist Cathy O’Leary, from the Shackleton Clinic, Newbridge

The dental question I am asked the most...

Cathy O'Leary at work in the Shackleton Clinic, Newbridge

I’ve been a dentist for a long time, but since moving home to Newbridge, one of the questions I am asked the most at my practice, Shackleton Clinic, is from parents asking ‘when should I begin taking my child to the dentist?’ Nowadays people are much more aware of dental hygiene, and are keen to give their children good habits to protect their teeth when they are older. But parents are unsure about when to start and aren’t sure where to turn.

According to the HSE, children should begin visiting the dentist as soon as their first teeth begin to appear. But this isn’t something that is actively encouraged or checked in Ireland’s current child health programme when children visit their local Public Health Nurse. This leaves parents with a lot of questions.

I often think good dental hygiene is like sunscreen, you do it now for the future. Ideally, children should begin an annual visit to the dentist anytime from age two and a half onwards. The idea isn’t necessarily to provide treatment but to meet the parents and their child. I will discuss diet and brushing routines but often I won't check a child's teeth until they are more familiar with me.

Another major reason to bring your child to the dentist regularly is to get them comfortable and relaxed with the process.

Recently a friend told me about her seven year old daughter who had just chipped a tooth. She was really surprised at the panic her daughter felt once they got into the surgery.

My friend is a happy dental patient so she didn’t know where this fear came from. But at this point her daughter was in pain and scared, so the visit did not go well and the dentist could only temporarily repair the tooth.

Visiting a dentist regularly when things are fine means that when there is an emergency your child is familiar with the chair, the equipment, the lights and sounds so they are more comfortable and relaxed.

This means your dentist will be able to do a better job instead of trying to rush or having to delay a procedure.

At my clinic in Newbridge I want all my patients to have a relaxed, positive experience with us, so I have started offering ‘sedation dentistry’ designed especially for children.

Inhalation Sedation or ‘happy air’, is a very safe, effective way of making children feel calm and relaxed during dental treatments.

During the procedure they inhale and exhale nitrous oxide, a gas used for sedation and pain relief. This creates a pleasant, relaxed, floating feeling making the dental treatment easier and more comfortable for them. This is a very popular choice, especially for emergency dental work.

But ideally the best treatment is always prevention. It’s never too late to start a regular dental visit for your child, they will thank you in about 40 years!

www.shackletonclinic. com

Phone 045 397220

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