Going to the Dentist Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

Remind your children that good oral hygiene begins with brushing and flossing regularly. We recommend screening the Caring for Teeth movie for a review. Explain to your children that visiting the dentist for regular checkups is also an important part of taking care of their teeth. Some children may be anxious or hesitant about going to the dentist. Help address and allay your children’s anxieties by explaining what happens at a typical dental checkup. Use this movie to review what happens during an appointment at the dentist’s office, including x-rays, fluoride treatments, and a cleaning. The movie will also discuss different tools that dentists and hygienists use, and what each tool is used for.

Review with your children that a dentist is a special doctor who checks teeth and gums and makes sure they are healthy. Dentists help patients care for their teeth and look for problems so they can be repaired or treated. Explain that everyone should get a checkup from the dentist every six months. When was the last time your children had a checkup? What happened during the checkup? Discuss together.

Sometimes patients see a dental assistant or a hygienist for an initial oral examination before they see a dentist. Remind children that a hygienist is a specially trained person who cleans teeth and does other activities that help keep teeth and gums healthy. Explain that the hygienist will take a look inside their mouths and check the crowns, or the parts of the teeth that can be seen. But, there are parts of the teeth that are hard to see or cannot be seen, such as the roots, which are covered by the gums. In order to check the roots and parts of the teeth that are hard to see or reach, the hygienist or dental assistant will need to take x-rays. Remind your children that x-rays are special pictures that can “see through” things. First the patient holds a special wand between his or her teeth. Then the hygienist or assistant uses a special camera to take a picture. The x-rays show the parts of the teeth that are covered by gums and illuminate any problems with the teeth, such as cavities.

Most children also have their teeth cleaned during their check-ups. Explain that plaque is a soft, sticky layer of terms that can form on teeth. Over time, plaque can build up and harden into tartar. If it is not removed, acids can break down teeth and form cavities. Thus, it is important for people to brush and floss regularly to remove plaque and take care of teeth. A cleaning and polishing at the dentist’s office can remove stubborn plaque and tartar and help protect teeth. Explain to your children that getting teeth cleaned at the dentist’s office is a lot like getting their teeth brushed. The hygienist uses a special brush to clean teeth, and uses a tube that suctions spit out of the mouth. Assuage your children’s fears and remind them that this process does not hurt. In fact, it’s an important part of caring for their teeth!

After the initial examination and cleaning, the dentist will take a closer look. He or she will use a small metal pick and a tiny mirror to carefully observe each tooth. The dentist may count the teeth, check all the crowns, look at how the teeth fit together, and check the bite to make sure teeth are aligned properly. The dentist will examine the x-rays and make sure there are no problems. If there are any, he or she will repair them.

During the appointment, young patients will review how to properly brush and floss teeth. They will learn how their teeth are growing and changing, and find out how certain habits can potentially cause problems. Children will also learn which foods can help them build strong teeth, such as foods high in calcium. It is crucial for your children to understand that the dentist is there to help them care for their teeth. They should not be afraid to ask questions! Remind them that they use their teeth everyday, so it’s important to take care of them. Help your children take active roles in their dental health!