A Parent’s Guide to seeing a Paediatric Dentist in Singapore

A Parent’s Guide to seeing a Paediatric Dentist in Singapore

Seeing a paediatric dentist in Singapore can be nerve-wrecking for your little kiddo —  especially if it’s his or her first time — and can you blame them? After all, sitting in the dentist’s chair in a clinical setting is enough to make a full grown adult squirm in her seat.

The secret to starting your little one off on the right (dental) foot is to simply visit a paedodontist early. Imagine the huge ball of fear you’d wedge in his heart if your kid’s first visit to the dentist in Singapore involves the removal of a painful tooth decay. No wonder your kid would associate dental visits with pain and fear. If that happens, expect a whole lot of drama and rebellion for future visits due to dental phobia. [1]

Our kiddo’s dental habits more often than not come directly from none other than their mummies and daddies. An oral health study found that 45% of adults visit the dentist once a year, 31% visit only when there is pain and 69% felt that dental treatments are painful.

For all you newly minted parents, be careful of your own dental hygiene practices that you may subconsciously pass down to your little ones. For those of you who want to bring your kiddos to see a paediatric dentist but have no idea when and how to do so, here is the nitty gritty on all you need to know to see a paediatric dentist for your child’s dental health.

What is a paediatric dentist?

A paediatric dentist is trained to help your kid to get rid of his/her dental phobia.

A paediatric dentist in Singapore is a specialist dentist who focuses on the care of children’s teeth. They have undergone an extra three-year specialist course to specifically learn about treating children’s teeth, in addition to a general dentistry degree.

Paediatric dentists treat children from birth to 18 years of age in general, managing baby teeth oral care, tooth cavities and other specific kid problems such as nursing or baby bottle tooth decay.

Did you know that a paediatric dentist is also an expert at managing children with special needs? They are trained to talk to children with autism, speech impairment, genetic conditions etc. [2] A paediatric dentist can form a good relationship with your little one from an early age, lessening his or her fear with dental visits. With many pedodontist clinics equipped with toys, TV, iPads, cartoons and colourful designs today, your kid may even look forward to visits to the dentist!

What’s the difference between a general dentist and a paediatric dentist?

To become a GP dentist, it will first involve 4 years of studying at National University of Singapore (NUS) to earn a basic medical degree, like any other doctor. After which, there is an additional 2 years spent in general dentistry practice.

To become a paediatric dentist, there will be another 3 years of postgraduate studying and training to specialise in this field. Then, another 2 years of specialist paediatric dentistry practice is required before sitting for a local Board Examination to become a certified paediatric dentist.

That’s a long and winding path of about eleven years to finally become a paediatric dentist! According to the Singapore Dental Council, there are only 27 paediatric dentists in Singapore.

What procedures do paediatric dentists do?

Paediatric dentists detect and manage dental problems in children, such as tooth decay, cavities, gum disease etc, and also dental cleaning, regular check-ups. They have extensive experience with milk teeth, as compared to general dentists who tend to see adults as patients a lot more.

In addition to dental duties, paediatricians can also help educate your kids to take ownership of his or her dental hygiene, such as brushing their teeth correctly, etc.

When should I bring my newborn to see a dentist?

One thing’s for sure — you shouldn’t wait until there is a problem with your child’s oral health, e.g. a tooth decay, before going to see a dentist. A toothy smile may look cute, but a mouth full of cavities is definitely not a laughing matter.

Instead, it is recommended that you should bring your child for his or her first casual dental visit by age one, or shortly after your child’s first few milk teeth erupts. [3]

Thereafter, schedule regular dental visits. According to the condition of your kid’s teeth, the dentist may schedule subsequent dental check-ups every 6 months to monitor the development of their milk teeth and to promptly treat any problems. This also allows the paediatrician to build rapport with your kid, breeding a sense of familiarity and comfort with each dental visit.

It is never too early to start caring for your child’s gum and oral health!

In Singapore, a study found that about 40% of preschool children show severe tooth decay caused by a bacterial infection known as early childhood carries. And a whopping 90% of these cases go untreated as parents in Singapore are not taking their kids to see a dentist regularly. [4] 

Why should I bring my kid to see a dentist when all his/her milk teeth are going to fall out anyway?

Indeed, milk teeth are supposed to start falling out at around age seven, to give way for adult teeth which will start erupting. But that doesn’t mean healthy milk teeth is not necessary — your kid’s baby teeth are more important than you think!

Milk teeth play a huge part in nutrition, growth and development in your child’s early years, and are the placeholders for permanent teeth to erupt into good positions later on. [5] Premature loss of milk teeth can have long-term implications for adult teeth as they will be more at risk to grow out titled or misaligned.

Without proper care and good dental hygiene, there is also risk of tooth decay and cavities in milk teeth, which can happen to adults and infants alike. In fact, tooth decay is common for infants due to night-time feeding or falling asleep with a baby bottle. [6] This habit can result in tooth decay as the milk residue left in mouth while sleeping is a ready source of sugars for bacteria in the mouth.

When tooth decay happens, your kid will find it painful to chew and eat. Furthermore, the bacteria in decaying milk teeth can affect the gums too, and increase the risk of tooth decay in permanent teeth that will erupt later on.

One common cause of tooth decay in babies due to falling asleep with a milk bottle!

There is also rising concern in Singapore that young toddlers are consuming more sweet stuff. From sugared fruit juices, flavoured milk, cakes — to even Coke, it’s no wonder children are prone to getting tooth decay from a young age. According to the Health Promotion Board, foods should contain sugar content equal or less than 6g per 100ml for pre-schoolers. [7]

How do I prepare my kid for his first visit to the paediatric dentist?

Before your child’s first visit to the dentist, try to alleviate any anxiety they may have in advance by taking time to talk to him/her, to role play, etc to prepare them.

Role play: You could keep it fun and pique your child’s interest by playing dentist. Use a doll and toothbrush to demonstrate brushing teeth, and ask your kid to try it out. Use positive language throughout the role play to describe the upcoming dental visit experience. Do not scare your child by telling her scary encounters with dentists or worse, transfer your own fear from your negative dental experiences to your kid!

The tooth fairy story: Tell your kid stories of the tooth fairy, download fun colouring tooth fairy / tooth-related templates online (like this one!) to let your child colour it. Make it such that their first trip to the dentist is something to get excited about so that they anticipate their visit to the dentist!

Don’t schedule your child’s appointment during naptime since it’s likely that they will be cranky or grumpy. Try and schedule it in the mornings when your child is well-rest or most cooperative. Remember to bring along toys and books as a distraction during the waiting time.

If there are problems that have surfaced with your child’s teeth or gum, gently explain it to them the importance of fixing the issue. Jot down your kid’s complaints about his tooth or gum pain so that you can relay it to the dentist during the visit.

Do I have to choose a paediatric dentist? Can I bring my child to see a GP dentist?

You definitely can. However, do bear in mind that a GP dentist clinic would be more catered to adults while a paediatric dental clinic will be designed with kids in mind. You’ll find that the paediatric clinics often come equipped with play pens, TVs — even Gameboys — to keep your little ones entertained as they wait.

As a general rule of thumb, you may want to choose to see a paediatric dentist specialist if your child:

  • Has a relatively low attention span and you think it will be hard to get him or her to cooperate with a dentist. Paediatric dentists may have better expertise in coaxing your little one! Some paediatric clinics even have laughing gas sedation for very anxious kids who refuse to cooperate, we kid you not.
  • Has dental phobia due to horror stories heard from somewhere!
  • Has severe tooth decay issues, fractured teeth or gum boils
  • Is fairly young when his or her first few milk teeth erupts — between 1 to 2 years old.

How much does it cost to see a paediatric dentist in Singapore?

Seeing a paediatric dental specialist in Singapore does cost a slight premium in general. After all, you are paying for their additional expertise!

A visit to the paediatric dentist costs about $80 to $150 in general, while a visit to your neighbourhood GP dentist would cost you about $60 to $100.

If you visit a polyclinic, it will cost about $50 for the subsidised polyclinic route. However, one thing to note is that your kid will not be able to see the same dentist for his or her regular visits, so there will not be no chance for your child to build rapport with the dentist since it varies.

Here’s a table summary:

Type of clinic Cost of first consultation
Dental Polyclinic (Subsidised) $50
Public Hospital (Non-subsidised) $100
Paediatric Dentist (Private) $80 – $150

If you prefer your child to be seen by the same paedodontist throughout their growing up years, you may want to opt to see a dentist in private practice instead.

Are my child’s dentist visits claimable using Medisave or insurance?

The good news is, if your child is 6 years old and below, you can use funds in your child’s (CDA) or MSF Baby Bonus account to help defray the cost of treatment. [10] Do check with your dental clinic with regards to this.

For Medisave claims, the procedures usually fall under more complex ones like surgery. You cannot use Medisave for a regular dental consultation and check-up.

For insurance, depending on the insurance policies you take up for your child, it may also be possible to claim some dental treatments up to a certain limit. In general though, insurance policies do not cover regular dental check-ups as well but cover more surgical procedures in nature.

What to expect during my child’s visit to the paediatric dentist?

During your child’s first visit to the dentist, your paediatric dentist will advise you on a whole lot of information about your baby’s dental health; for example, issues of teething, pacifier habits, finger-sucking habits, mouth cleaning, teeth brushing techniques. It would be like a mini info session.

The dentist will also examine your child’s teeth and mouth hygiene and let you know the risk of cavities and tooth decay, as well as your child’s bite (how the upper and lower teeth come together).

For example, common causes of a poor bite or teeth misalignment are the frequent use of pacifiers, frequent finger sucking and prolonged baby bottle feeding. These habits contribute to your child’s teeth and jaw development.

It’s fairly normal for your child to fuss or cry as the dentist prods in his mouth. A good paediatric dentist will be able to manage that well though, so that the entire experience is a positive one for your little kiddo. Some kid dentists are expert at distraction techniques!

What to expect for my child’s regular dental visits?

In general, paediatric dentists would advise parents to bring their children for regular dental visits every 6 months. This would vary according to your child’s dental situation of course. Do be sure to visit the dentist immediately though, if your kid experiences any toothaches, knocked out teeth, broken or chipped tooth, gum boils or swelling etc.

During the regular visits, the dentist would check on your kid’s oral health and milk teeth situation to make sure everything is okay. Sometimes, they may advise to have the teeth cleaned professionally or receive topical fluoride treatment to maintain oral hygiene.

What do I need to do in-between dentist visits?

Yup, dental hygiene doesn’t just take place in the dentist’s chair! It’s what you do with your kids on a daily basis that really matters. Here are some important things to take note of to help your kid maintain good dental health:

For babies

Parents should make it a habit to clean your baby’s mouth and gums regularly with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth with water daily after each feeding. Do not let your child suck the milk bottle while sleeping, for this can encourage tooth decay. Also avoid giving your baby sugary stuff, like juices and soft drinks. When the first milk tooth erupts, begin brushing that tooth even though it’s just one. When a few more erupts, it’s time to book in your child’s first visit to the dentist!

For toddlers & children

This is the right time to get your child started on good oral hygiene! You’ll need to spend some time educating them on teeth brushing and enforcing good habits, i.e. brushing their teeth twice daily. Opt for child-friendly toothpaste when your children are young (1 to 3 years of age) — they should use no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste each time.

Try and make sure they brushed their teeth thoroughly and got to every spot. They should also gargle and spit the excess toothpaste out properly and not swallow it! Some kids tend to swallow the toothpaste, so watch out for that.

Most children stop thumb or pacifier sucking habits on their own by the time they are two years old. But if they are still doing so, let your paedodontist know as it can potentially affect the development of the teeth and gum. In some cases, the dentist may recommend wearing a mouth appliance. [9]

How do I choose the best paediatric dentist for my child?

As mummies and daddies, our kids are our precious little gems and we naturally want the best for them. How do we then choose the best dentist for them?

First, ask your fellow mummies for recommendations, or do a quick Google to find good paediatric dentists in Singapore. Or you can also try out our free doctor recommendations to get in touch with a few good paediatric dentists.

During the dental visit, try and see if the dentist is able to build a strong rapport with your child and whether your child is comfortable seeing him/her. Also, you as parents should feel comfortable discussing your concerns and asking for advice with the dentist.

If you both like the style and demeanour of this dentist, great! You can now easily rebook another follow-up appointment for your little one. If not, see another to try them out — you’ll find one who truly cares about your kid’s well-being.

References:

[1] Beena JP (2013). Dental subscale of children’s fear survey schedule and dental caries prevalence. European Journal of Dentistry. 2013;7(2):181-185. doi:10.4103/1305-7456.110166.

[2] Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. What is paediatric dentistry?, from https://www.memc.com.sg/specialty-areas/dentistry/paediatric-dentistry/

[3] Health Xchange – Singhealth. Paediatric Dentistry – Doctor Q&A, from https://www.healthxchange.sg/children/child-2-12-years/ask-specialist-paediatric-dentistry

[4] Health Xchange – Singhealth. ​When to Schedule Your Child’s First Dental Visit, from https://www.healthxchange.sg/children/baby-0-24-months/when-schedule-childs-first-dental-visit

[5] Q&M Kids. About Teeth And Paediatric Dentists, from https://www.qandm.com.sg/kids/InfoBites-QandM-Kids-paediatric-medical-advice

[6] Paglia L. (2015). Does breastfeeding increase risk of early childhood caries? European Jounal of Paediatric Dentistry. 2015 Sep;16(3):173.

[7] Koh F. (2016). Are Singapore kids eating too much sweet stuff?, from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/are-kids-eating-too-much-sweet-stuff

[8] Karan A. K. (2017). Child’s First Dental Visit. Smilemakers, from  https://www.smilemakers.com.sg/health-byte/childs-first-dental-visit/

[9] America’s Pediatric Dentists. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), from https://www.aapd.org/resources/parent/faq/

[10] T32 Dental Group. Child Development Co-Savings (Baby Bonus) Scheme, from https://www.t32dental.com/baby-bonus/

Jolene

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Jolene lives for avo toasts, yoga and is a little more OCD than she cares to admit. She never fails to start her day with her morning coffee and is very partial to flat whites. She also has gone a little too far down the rabbit hole with interior design and dabbles in styling her own home at @februarynest.

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