Good oral hygiene habits are best started early, but where do you begin? In this article we are going to discuss your kids and dentistry. We’ll talk about finding a family dentist, tips and tricks for getting your kids excited about their teeth, and what you can do if your child is afraid of the dentist. First let’s explore WHY it’s so important to find a kid friendly dentist in the first place!
What happens at a child’s first dentist appointment
Finding a kid-friendly dentist is paramount to building good oral hygiene habits which can last a lifetime. During a child’s first dental appointment there will typically be an exam and in some cases, a gentle cleaning may be done as well. If your dentist is a great dentist but the office is not as kid friendly as you might like, then you may want to consider checking around. First impressions can last a lifetime in many scenarios and dentistry is certainly among them. You don’t want your child to be afraid of the dentist, after all. If instead your child LIKES the dentist then it is much easier to get them excited about brushing and flossing regularly and with careful selection of your child’s dentist this is very much a possibility. So choose well!
You might be surprised to know that it is recommended that you bring your child after the emergence of their first tooth, typically around 1 year of age. While this seems a bit early, it’s good to start as soon as those teeth start coming in. This gives your child’s dentist a slow accrual of data for their records and the chance to spot anything untoward at the soonest possible time. As a bonus, if your child likes the dentist then these visits will be easier as your child gets older.
What if my child is scared of the dentist?
Sadly, sometimes even the friendliest dentist is considered terrifying to a child. That said, there are still some things which you can do in order to help to minimize this and try to build more enthusiasm for these visits. Some things which you can try are as follows:
- Play ‘Dentist’ at the house – You can play with your child and pretend to have a dental session together, taking turns being the patient and the dentist. Get creative. You can tell your child that you are nervous and that the dentist should tell them that everything will be fine and so your child can overcome their fear with a little role play. Otherwise, simply playing ‘Dentist’ makes a dental visit less of a scary unknown and this can help.
- Visit the dentist BEFORE your appointment – If your child is a little older and it’s their first visit to this or even ANY dentist, then talk to the dentist beforehand and bring your child in for a procedure-free visit. Many dentists are quite happy to put aside a little time for this and it helps your child to see their dentist for the first time in a more relaxing, stress-free atmosphere. This can make all the difference in the next visit.
- Dental storybooks can help – You can purchase books for kids on dental visits, cavities, and more. This helps to reinforce good habits and respect for the dentist and also gives the two of you a little bonding time. Taking the mystery out of dental visits is half the battle so consider some dental storybooks.
” Taking the mystery out of dental visits is half the battle.”
- Use only positive language – Never mention pain, shots, or other negative aspects of the dentist. Focus on the fun parts. ‘We’re going to see your skeleton-head with the X-ray!’ or ‘Let’s go show the dentist how good you’ve been taking care of your teeth!’. Positive reinforcement can go a long way.
- Make it a competition – If you have more than one child, make it a competition to see who has the best brushing habits and who has less cavities. Kids love to compete and as long as you are praising the efforts of all children involved then this technique can help quite a bit.
- Let the dentist know – Sometimes just informing your dentist that the kids are scared can work wonders. It gives them a chance to do a little extra preparation in order to help get your child to fear those appointments less.
- Only use a pediatric dentist – Make sure that you are only using a pediatric dentist. These dentists are going to be better equipped to work with children and the atmosphere of the offices are much, much more kid friendly.
How do I find a good pediatric dentist?
Finding a good pediatric dentist in the information age is actually a breeze. Load up your trust desktop or laptop and go to Google, where you can simply type ‘pediatric dentists near me’, or even better, you can use Yelp. So what is Yelp? Yelp.com is a website where you can search for businesses or individuals doing business that includes the benefit of a rating system which also allows for comments. This means that you can read ‘reviews’ regarding the performance of a particular pediatric dentist and get a good idea of what the experience might be like for your own child. It’s a great way to help to ensure a good first impression and to avoid any dentists that might not be as adept at handling children.
Some final words
In this article we have talked about the importance of finding a kid-friendly dentist, as well as what age is optimal to start seeing the dentist, what you can do if your child is scared, and how to find a great pediatric dentist in your area. Remember to make the first impression a good one and your child can start with enthusiasm to develop good habits that can last a lifetime!