Regular visits to the dentist are vital to improving oral health and “brushing up” on routine hygiene habits. Unfortunately, for many children, a trip to the dentist is synonymous with fear and discomfort. Even with practices geared toward small children, the sights, sounds, and smells of a dental office might seem overwhelming. As a parent, it’s frustrating to feel like you can’t calm your child’s fears. Thankfully, there are several ways you can help prepare you and your loved one for their first visit to the dentist.
While many parents wait until their children are at least a few years of age or older to take them to the dentist, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests that a child should have their first dental visit by the age of one. Starting early also helps your little one get to know their dentist and helps instill a sense of familiarity and trust—whether the trip is for a routine cleaning or a dental procedure.
Watch Your Language
When talking about upcoming dental appointments, it’s important to be mindful of what you say. Be careful about using negative words such as “pain” or “shot” and instead focus on the positives of good oral hygiene. Remind your child that a visit to the dentist is important to keep their smile clean, their gums healthy, and their teeth strong.
Practicing good oral hygiene yourself is one of the easiest ways to instill good habits into your child, but you should avoid taking them to your own dental appointments. Not only might your kids pick up on your own inhibitions about going to the dentist, but the sterile white walls of an office geared towards adults is a stark contrast to the fun and colorful offices most child-friendly dentists offer.
Be careful about giving your loved one too much information about their upcoming visit. Not only might stories about your past dental experiences be outdated due to advancements in technology, but giving more information than necessary to your child may cause them to overthink simple procedures.
A practice dental visit is a good way to help your child know what to expect for their examination. Grab a toothbrush and count your child’s teeth, or help them learn what to expect by brushing the teeth of a toy or doll. There are also episodes of many shows made for children that involve a trip to the dentist that you might consider watching with your little one.
Don’t Make Promises
It might be tempting to tell your child that a trip to the dentist is no big deal and that everything will be fine, but this can lead to false hope and a lack of trust for future visits if they end up needing treatment. Avoid bribing your little one, as this can lead to questions about why they might need to worry about a visit to the dentist in the first place. It’s important to reward good behavior in healthy ways such as a toy or a trip somewhere fun after visits, but keep these rewards spontaneous so that they don’t become an expectation.
Even with preparation, it’s silly to expect your child to remain perfectly still and not make a fuss while a stranger pokes around their mouth. Try to reassure your child that everything is okay while avoiding bribes or threats of punishment if they don’t comply. Trust in the dentist you’ve chosen, and know that they’ve had plenty of experience dealing with unruly children. Follow their advice, such as holding your child’s hand or talking to them during the examination.
Ready to Get Started?
If you are ready to begin your little one’s journey toward oral health with a caring, friendly dental office, contact Arrowhead Dental Associates today at 401-364-6300 to schedule your child’s first appointment!