Make the dentist a fun experience for kids
Visits to the dentist for periodic cleanings and checkups are an important component of oral hygiene. Dentists also may be the first people to identify potential issues that can affect health elsewhere in the body.
Many people are unaware that children should visit the dentist early in their lives. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child should visit the dentist by age one or within six months of the eruption of his or her first tooth. However, many parents wait until much later — age two or three — to take kids to the dentist, offers Delta Dental Plans. Hesitance to visit the dentist may stem from personal fears or perceived reactions by children.
Primary teeth may eventually fall out, but they shouldn’t be ignored. They save space for permanent teeth and serve other functions. Therefore, parents should begin to acclimate children to the dentist at a young age to make the experience fun and even enjoyable.
Lead by example
Children who witness their parents putting off going to the dentist or being apprehensive about visiting the dentist may develop their own fears. Always paint the dentist in a positive light and keep appointments.
Focus on the good parts
Talk up all the benefits of going to the dentist, such as having a squeaky clean and fresh mouth. Many hygienists will hand out small toys after a successful visit, or at the least a great new toothbrush and other fun products to try.
Get a tour of the office
Ask the staff if your child can get a special tour of the office with explanations of all the tools and equipment. Understanding what to expect the next time around in a no-pressure situation can make the process much easier for everyone involved. The dentist may be able to also give a test ride on the exam chair, moving it up and down, as well as showing off the water fountain and oral irrigator.
Avoid giving false hope
Do not tell a child that “everything will be OK” at the dentist’s office. If a child needs treatment that may be uncomfortable, he or she may not trust you the next time a dental visit is scheduled, according to Joel H. Berg, D.D.S., M.S., Director of the Department of Dentistry at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Avoid words like “shots,” “pain,” “hurt,” or even “cavities.” Dentists, particularly pediatric dentists, may have their own vocabulary that can assuage fears and seem less alarming to kids.
Over time, dental visits can become an easy routine with children, setting them up for a lifetime of healthy mouths and teeth.