Preparing your child for the dentist
How can you prepare your child for her first trip to the dentist? Dentistry is not what is used to be. While it likely never (really) was the pain filled stereotype, neither was it the biannual checkup that everyone looked forward to. With advancements in prevention and tooth protection, it's far more reasonable now - if not mildly pleasant. But it can still be scary for your child to sit in that big chair for the first time.
Oral health is essential to our overall health, and
regular dental cleanings and checkups are important regular events. Making sure our kids get the right start in their dental health sometimes means putting aside our own baggage from our own dental
experiences and seeking out the right dentist and right situation for our children.
Opinions on when a child should see the dentist for the first time varies, but probably by about age two and a half or three. Your child's pediatrician will likely bring this up at a regular checkup. Hopefully you've been helping your child brush his or her teeth for sometime already.
Finding a dentist
Choosing a dentist may be as much an issue of proximity and insurance than anything, but if you can get a recommendation for a dentist, all the better. If you can see a pediatric dentist, all the
better. Pediatric dentists tend to be more adept at looking in at smaller mouths and more sensitive to the anxieties of your children.
If insurance is an issue for you, look for dental schools in your area that might offer lower cost clinics with well-supervised dental students. They can be a great way to get the care you and your child need without a high-cost - and with access to cutting edge technology.
Regardless of you you see, the dentist and his or her staff should treat you and your child kindly and respectfully. From the first phone call through early visits, if you don't feel right, you should not hesitate to make a change. Additionally, if you feel like a dentist is pushing treatments on you before you've had a chance to do your own research, well, there are plenty of other dentists around.
Talk up the visit
Before you actually take your child to the dentist for the first time, talk about it. Tell your child exactly why you are going to the dentist - to help keep your child healthy just like the
regular visits to the pediatrician - and the kinds of things they might experience there. During toothbrushing time you can role play: ask your child to open his or her mouth and use your clean
hands to just touch here or there around the teeth so your child has a sense of what it must feel like.
There are plenty of books at the library about visiting the dentist, and spending some time reading them is another great way to let your child know what is about to happen and ease any fears. They may also answer some questions that you don't know the answer to.
Even with this practice, your child might clamp his or her jaw shut when finally in the dentists chair. This is not the first time this has happened, and it likely won't be the last. Just do what you to move the situation along - but if your child just won't open up, don't force it. It was the third visit before my daughter finally let the dentist really look in her mouth - and we had practiced extensively.
As with success in any new and sometimes scary thing, a successful first dentist visit warrants some kind of praise and reward. The dentist might be one who gives away a small toy with the requisite toothbrush; even so, a reward of your own for your child would be good. Just remember that giving candy as a reward for a good dental visit kind of defeats the message.