Dental care for children in the Netherlands

Dental care for children in the Netherlands

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Taking your kids to the dentist in The Netherlands can be a stress-free experience for everyone.

It’s unlikely that a trip to the dentist is at the top of your ‘where to take the kids next Tuesday’ bucket list, but getting your children’s teeth checked by a professional in the Netherlands does not need to be an ordeal.

With a good dose of parental TLC and a dental practitioner with calming, caring bedside manners, there’s no reason why your child’s visit to the local clinic will turn into a tearful tantrumfest; in fact, your kids may even look forward to regular visits.

That’s the view of Boukje Scheepstra, a dentist with specialization in pediatric dentistry at Lassus Tandartsen, which provides dental services at three different clinics in the Amsterdam area. She says both parents and dentists have vital roles to play in ensuring that taking a child to the dentist is stress-free.

“Dentists are trained to provide a warm and welcoming environment to put children (and parents!) at ease,” she explains. Here, Boukje offers advice on what to expect from dental treatment for a child in the Netherlands:

Your child’s first dental check-up in the Netherlands

It’s never too soon to take your child to the dentist: becoming familiar with the sights and sounds of the clinic can quickly make them feel at home and say “aaaah” without any fear.

Boukje recommends an initial familiarization visit at two years old. “Around that age, we see children who have little accidents and fall on their teeth. It’s good if their first dentist visit isn’t when they (and their parents)  are already under a lot of stress”, explains Boukje.

“Your child can ride in the dentists’ chair, and the dentist may have a quick look into your child’s mouth to count the teeth and molars”, adds Boukje. “But if that is too stressful for the child, we do the tooth count in a normal chair, until they grow more comfortable.”

In addition to the oral exam, “we also give advice on dental, including cleaning techniques, thumb-sucking and pacifier habits, and even nutritional guidance,” notes Boukje.

Striking the right tone: the dentist

A good pediatric dentist will ensure their little patients are relaxed (and as co-operative as little-humanly possible!) during the visit. That means getting the tone just right.

“If, for example, during the check up the dentist notices cavities, they will handle it with due thought and care,” says Boukje. “They will take time to discuss it playfully with the child, and communicate in an open and friendly way.”

Ambience is important too. Most dental clinics in the Netherlands are bright, airy, welcoming places with TVs on the walls, soothing music, water dispensers and smiling staff putting everyone at ease.

Modelling behaviour: the parent

Kids are super-intuitive. If you’re anxious about visiting the dentist, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll pick up on that.

A sizeable percentage of adults have a dental phobia. A 2009 Dutch study concluded that, of almost 2,000 people between the ages of 18 and 93 surveyed, 3% had what was classed as a phobia.

“Addressing your own concerns about visiting the dentist would certainly help allay any anxieties your children have, but in any case there are a number of things a parent can do at home to make children feel more comfortable and confident before and at the dentist,” says Boukje.

Good oral hygiene is key, because positive ‘behaviours’ nip any potential problems in the bud. Dutch guidelines recommend twice daily tooth brushing with fluoride toothpaste and restricting the consumption of foods and drinks to a maximum of five to seven times a day. 


A 2015 report by BMC Oral Health, a journal, cites other parent-led influences on a child’s oral health behaviours, including routines, time, family composition and division of family roles, parenting, parental stress and even parental depression.

“For children whose first tooth has erupted, clean once a day with a children’s toothpaste containing fluoride, which strengthens teeth and molars. Children aged three to five should clean twice a day with the same toothpaste. There is another special toothpaste for kids aged five to 12, and beyond 12 it’s OK to use an adult fluoride-based toothpaste,” says Boukje. “Keep in mind that until the age of 10,  a child is not fully capable of brushing their own teeth, so it’s the parents’  responsibility to help and supervise”.

“To complement this regime we also recommend your child visits the dentist every six months for a check-up,” she adds.

From baby teeth to wisdom teeth

A good oral hygiene and preventative dental care regime should stave off most problems for children, but Mother Nature has her own agenda.

“Your child will start to lose his or her baby teeth at around six years old – which is also when the first adult molars start appearing,” says Boukje.

“After that, premolars, canines and incisors will erupt into the gaps left by primary teeth that have fallen out. This process is usually completed by the age of 13. After this, at around the age of 10 large molars will come out, and it is also possible that, between the ages of 18 to 24, the third set of molars (also called wisdom teeth) breaks out,” she adds. 

Unfortunately some cavities appear while the teeth are not fully erupted. This is due to the food particles and bacteria which lodge in the deep grooves on molars. So “it’s important to check them regularly and, if necessary , to seal the molars with a thin layer of synthetic resin or fluoride-holding cement”, explains Boukje.

Brace yourself!

A set of braces can correct children’s teeth that are protruding or crooked, but beyond cosmetic reasons braces have health benefits.

“Straight teeth makes it possible to bite, chew, talk and laugh well. The position of some teeth can lead to gum damage, dental asymmetry in the face and malformed jaws or an overbite,” Boukje explains.

“Typically your child will have an initial consultation about the individual treatment plan, followed by an investigation (X-rays, mouth examination and creation of jaw and teeth models), placing of the braces and check-ups every four to eight weeks during the treatment period,” she explains. 

Maintaining healthy teeth is a lifelong journey from an early age. The good news is that, apart for orthodontics and other very specific treatments, your child’s dental care is entirely covered by their Dutch health insurance until their 18th birthday. 

Boukje Scheepstra finished her studies in dentistry at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam at ACTA in 2014. After that she worked in a paediatric dental clinic, and followed various courses to specialize more in the dental treatment of children. In addition to paediatric dentistry, she also practices general dentistry at Lassus Tandartsen. The combination of both makes the work varied and challenging for her.

 

 

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