Prepare you child for the dentist

Maintaining good oral care for your children is an important part of keeping them healthy.  Kids go to the doctor since the moment they are born, so there isn’t always anxiety about their check-ups with the doctor.  However, by the time they are old enough to see a dentist, they may feel uncertain and scared.  Prepare your child for their first dental visit by helping them understand what to expect, and explain why it is important to their teeth.

Here are some steps to help you out:

Keep the teeth and mouth clean

  • Many dentists recommend taking your child to the dentist around their first birthday, or as soon as their first tooth comes in.  The best way to prepare a baby for a dental appointment is to keep their mouth clean.  Run a washcloth over the gums, and use a small infant toothbrush or your finger with a spot of infant-safe toothpaste to clean any emerging teeth.

Use dramatic play

  • Take turns with your child pretending to be the dentist and the patient.  If your child has dolls or stuffed animals, pretend to take them to the dentist.  This will allow them to take on many roles, including that of the dentist, the parent, and event the patient.  Use props such as toothbrushes, dental floss, flashlights, and small cups to practice rinsing and spitting.

Talk about teeth

  • Share as much knowledge as you can with your child, so they understand the importance of keeping their teeth healthy.  Point out the work they do in helping to chew food, and have them practice smiling into the mirror so they can see and appreciate their teeth.

Set a good example

  • Children learn from what you do, not what you say.  Invite them into the bathroom with you when you brush your teeth and floss.  Open up your mouth and let them count your teeth.  Making oral care part of your daily routine so they are comfortable caring for their teeth.

Be encouraging

  • Allow your child to talk about anything that scares them about the dentist.  Help your child feel secure by assuring them them you will be present during the appointment.  Let them choose a toy, stuffed animal, or blanket to take for extra security.  Explain words they may never hear at the appointment such as fluoride, cavity, gums and x-ray.

Visit the dentist before the appointment

  • Many dentists will accommodate their new patients, especially the young ones.  Stop in and let your child meet the dental staff and check out the waiting room.  This way, it will feel a little more familiar when it is time for the appointment.

Do not use any words which would cause anxiety

  • It can be difficult to explain what will happen at the child’s appointment; good thing is, you don’t have to! Find a dental office with a dental team and dentists you trust. They will be more than capable of breaking things down on a child’s level. In fact, dentists have their own vocabulary! Never use words like pain, shot, hurt, etc. Use words like this:
    • Shot/Injection = Bubble, Sleepy Juice
    • Cavities/Decay = Sugar Bugs, Sugar Monsters
    • Infection/Abscess = Sick Tooth
    • Drill =Super Fast Toothbrush
    • Numb =Asleep

So, a conversation with a 4 year old at our office would go something like this: “Good morning Suzy! We are going to clean off all those sugar bugs with our super fast, cool toothbrush. First, we are going to take princess pictures of your teeth!” The trick is to answer questions, but try not to go into the details too much. Keep it simple and stay on their level.

Don’t act like the appointment is a big deal

  • Constantly speaking about the appointment or sitting the child down and trying to explain scraping, drilling, cavities, shots and so forth will not put the child more at ease. Although you may be dreading the appointment or concerned about the details doesn’t mean the child is worried. Always avoid making negative comments like, “Oh no, we have to go to the dentist.” Children take cues from their parents and they can sense when you are nervous. Only answer questions as they pop up. If it is a tough question or you don’t know how to answer the child on his/her level say, “That’s a good question, Suzy, when you go to your visit, be sure to ask the dentist! As a dentist, their special job is to talk to all little boys and girls about their teeth.” Usually, the children forget to ask – or if they happen to remember – whew, at least you will be in the capable hands of a pediatric dental office!

Do not act like the dentist is a punishment

  • Please do not ever tell your child anything remotely close to, “If you don’t brush your teeth, the dentist is going to give you a shot!” or “Since you haven’t been taking care of your teeth, the dentist is going to pull your tooth!” The biggest pet peeve of any dentist is when parents create dental anxiety.

Talk to your child’s dentist without your child around

  • If you discover your child needs treatment, it is important for you to feel comfortable and completely understand why and what the dentist is recommending. To avoid your child becoming too curious, it is best to discuss the ins and outs with your dentist without your child present. Ask all of the questions you think of and don’t schedule until you feel comfortable with the diagnosis and treatment recommendations. There are options of sedation if you feel your child may be uncooperative, overly anxious or could otherwise benefit from sedation.

Remember, whatever you do – Don’t lie and don’t create anxiety. Use kid-friendly terms. You can always have the child call and talk to the dental staff – they will be able to explain everything without scaring your child.  It’s as simple as, “Oh, we have a dentist appointment tomorrow!” Get excited!

It is important for your child to develop good oral habits so they can keep that happy smile healthier, longer. We, at Crystal Smiles Dental can help you prepare your child for a visit that is going to be quite enjoyable, too!  We offer complimentary “SMILE VISITS”… Call today to book your child’s first dental check-up.