It’s not unusual for children to fear a visit to the dentist. Even when visits are painless, which is increasingly the case in modern dentistry, many children (and even some adults) become anxious about procedures that take place in the mouth.
In fact, dental anxiety and phobia is quite common, with between 30 and 40 million Americans experiencing some form of problem. Their discomfort often results in them not getting the care they need to maintain their dental health over the long term.
Are There Any Ways to Make Your Child’s First Dental Visit a Success?
Children learn by example. The best thing you can do to reduce your child’s fear of going to the dentist is to show him or her through your actions that you, yourself, are comfortable with dental visits and procedures. That said, there are several additional approaches which will increase the odds that your child’s first dental visit is a success.
Make Your Child’s First Dental Appointment Early
According to the Canadian Dental Association, your child’s first dental visit should be within six months of cutting his or her first tooth, or by their first birthday. Keep in mind that your child will have their baby teeth for about 12 years, so it’s a good idea to teach effective oral habits early.
In addition to getting an early start on good dental habits, an early dental visit is generally easier for children than when they are older. Children are impressionable, and waiting too long risks exposing them to negative views about dental visits.
The first dental visits are a great way for both the child and parent to learn the correct ways of brushing, and the appropriate number of times to brush. The dentist will walk you through the basics on how to assist your child throughout the whole journey of learning fundamental oral care habits. The child will not learn immediately, and it takes effort to feed proper habits into a child’s mind. Knowing the basics yourself is going to make this procedure fun and easy for both of you. The dentist will also be able to monitor and correct the growth of new later on, as soon as baby teeth start falling out.
Let Your Child Know What to Expect
Most people have some fear of the unknown. To help avoid this at the dentist, take the time to explain to your child what will happen at their first dental visit. Since some children will be too young to understand this verbally, sometimes it’s best to act it out. Children pick up things by studying adults, so it is a good opportunity to utilize this aspect when it comes to their first dental visit.
For example, you could accustom your child to having someone examine his teeth and mouth by doing it yourself at home. Let someone else hold the child is his or her lap, then gently rub your fingers across his or her teeth and gums. In this way, when your child is in the dentist’s office, he or she will be accustomed to dental examination and therefore more comfortable and relaxed.
Let the child know that a dentist is a good friend who is there to help them out, and that there is nothing to be afraid of. Display in front of your child of how important a dentist is in your own life. Get the child encouraged and excited about the first dental visit.
Do a Practice Run—or Two!
This is a good follow-up to the home examination. The next time you or one of your other children has a dental visit, let your little one tag along (assuming he or she will be seeing the same dentist). As you sit with your child in the waiting room, make him or her feel as comfortable as possible. Encourage the child to play with any toys that are present or read the child one of his or her favorite stories. If your child can become comfortable with the dental setting and staff, they will be much more likely to want to come back.
Make the dentist aware of your child’s normal reactions related medical equipment, medicines and so on. The more the dentist knows about your child, the better equipped he or she will be on how to handle the appointment. Dentists are usually experienced in handling and tackling first visits of children and will have ample amount of knowledge on how to converse with the child, or how to handle unusual reactions.
Schedule the Appointment at a Time When Your Child Will Be Most Relaxed
Every child has his or her good and bad moments during the day. Usually, early mornings are the alert and energetic times for a child. However, some are more relaxed early in the morning, while others brighten up in mid-afternoon.
Choose and schedule a time at the dentist when you feel the child would be most comfortable and relaxed. You will be in trouble if you choose the lazy and worn out hours of the child. The worst timing is when the child is near sleepy and would display clear cranky and irritated reactions.
You want your child to carry back good memories from the first visit. The more challenging the first visit turns out, the more trouble you have to face in the upcoming visits. Therefore, it’s best to not take any chances when it comes to the first one. Be sure to schedule the visit at a time which best suits your child’s daily moods.
Lessons That Last a Lifetime
The dental anxiety that some children experience can extend into their adult life. Parents that communicate properly and plan well set the children up for success over the long term.
At Kingtown Dental, we go out of our way to ensure that all our patients, young and old, are as relaxed and comfortable as possible, no matter what dental procedure they’re having done. Be sure to book your appointment today!