Taking your kids to the dentist is necessary to keep their teeth healthy and promote excellent oral hygiene habits. But from a child’s point of view, a trip to the dentist can be a scary event — lying on a chair in an unfamiliar room filled with unfamiliar noises and objects, all while a stranger is poking cold, metallic, and unusual instruments in his mouth. Plus, as your child’s teeth continue to fall out and grow, he may take at least 10 trips to the dentist before starting kindergarten. To help ease future visits for your child (and for the dentist!), follow these steps so that he will feel comfortable and more relaxed.
Mommy I can handle this: Step One
The first trip to the dentist should happen as soon as the first tooth appears or by your baby’s first birthday. We understand you might be nervous, but it’s unlikely your child will need any treatment during that first visit. The dentist will simply check to see that your baby’s teeth are growing and developing the way they should.
The earlier a child visits the dentist, the better. It’s best that the first visit starts at age 1 or when the first tooth is visible.
Mommy I can handle this: Step Two
Good news! You can take your little one with you during your dentist visits if you want to, because they should also get a check-up every six months. These visits are one of the most important parts of looking after their smile.
Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist questions. A good one will take the time to talk to you about proper oral care, how your child’s teeth are developing, and when to bring them in for regular check-ups. If they’re really child friendly, they might even let your children come in and have a ride in the chair!
Mommy I can handle this: Step Three
Keep it simple. When preparing for a visit, especially the first time, try not to include too many details. Doing so will raise more questions, and adding more information about an extra treatment like a filling he might need may cause unnecessary anxiety. Keep a positive attitude when discussing an upcoming visit, but don’t give your child false hope.
Mommy I can handle this: Step Four
Teach your child that visiting the dentist is a necessity, not a choice, and that the dentist will take care of his teeth so that they are strong enough for him to eat. You might also explain that the dentist helps keep cavities at bay and ensures that his patients will have a beautiful smile for years to come. Emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene.
Mommy I can handle this: Step Five
Avoid bribery. Promising a sugary treat also sends the wrong message after a dentist emphasizes having clean, healthy teeth by avoiding sweets that can cause cavities. Instead, after the visit is over, praise your child for her good behavior and bravery. Every once in a while, surprise her with a sticker or a small toy as an encouragement.
Mommy I can handle this: Step Six
According to our dentist, it is normal and age-appropriate for a young child to cry, whine, and not want to be examined by a stranger. So just stay calm and remember that the dentist and her staff are used to working with children and have seen their share of tantrums. So just be prepared for some fussing.
Mommy I can handle this: Step Seven
Don’t show your anxiety if you’re scared of the dentist yourself. Children will pick up on it and copy your behavior.
Take them to the dentist regularly – once every 6 months. Children who only go to the dentist when there’s a problem will quickly start to associate being there with getting bad news about their teeth. Plus, frequent check-ups are the best way to catch problems before they become painful or need further treatment.
Mommy, I can handle this: The Dental Hygienist
The dental hygienist will look inside your mouth to make sure your teeth are growing properly and your gums are healthy. A bright, overhead light will shine down into your mouth like a giant flashlight so the dental hygienist can get a good look inside your mouth.
During the exam, your teeth will be cleaned, flossed, and checked for cavities.
Healthy habits for your child
- Brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing daily are essential for everyone. It’s the best way to fight tooth decay and gum disease.
- Help your child to brush his/her teeth untill they are 12 years old. Before that age, their motor skills are not fully developed yet!
- Build a relationship. Continuity of care is an important part of any health plan and dental health is no exception. When your dentist sees you and your child regularly, he or she is in a good position to catch oral problems early.
- Maintain. Keeping your child’s mouth healthy is an essential piece of his overall health. It’s important to keep your dentist informed of any changes in his overall health as well.