Many children will have a natural fear of their ﬁrst dental visit. Parents, don’t worry, it’s ok, this is normal. Just follow these guidelines and you may minimize some negative aspects of this visit.
Start young! The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you should bring your child to the dentist within 6 months of their ﬁrst erupted tooth or no later than the age of 12 months. Establishing a dental home for your child is of prime importance.
Start with a Pediatric Dentist. While your general dentist may be more than qualiﬁed to see your child, the environment created in a pediatric setting is special. The entire oﬃce is geared towards children; toys in the waiting room, fun pictures on the wall, music geared toward children and videos above the dental chairs. All these lead to a positive dental experience.
At this early age, the dentist should do an exam, check for early childhood caries, check to make sure your child is not tongue or lip tied, evaluate how you are taking care of your child’s teeth, recommend nutritional support for a healthy grin and suggest the intake of a ﬂuoride vitamin if your water is not ﬂuoridated and your pediatrician has not done so.
As your child gets older and becomes more aware of the dental environment, they may or may not become more fearful. Listen to them, answer their questions honestly and explain what is going to be done. Be positive and don’t say too much. And speaking of the word “hurt”, exclude it from your vocabulary. Read a book about a dental visit to them. Play “pretend dentist”at home.
Let them know the dentist or dental hygienist is going to count their teeth, brush their teeth with a special toothbrush and maybe even take some pictures. Better yet, if you have had positive experiences, you may want to bring them along on your checkup and let them see how a dental visit can be fun. Let them ride up and down in the chair with you, squirt the water syringe, etc.
Most of all, be patient. If their ﬁrst visit as an older, more aware child doesn’t go as planned, it’s ﬁne. Usually within 2 or 3 visits, they ﬁnd their comfort zone, they relax and learn that the dentist and dental hygienist are their friends.
As some children become older, a small percentage will not be able to overcome their fears. Special situations like this involve special protocols, especially if dental treatment above and beyond just a dental cleaning is necessary.
Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) may be used to help your child relax. Occasionally, general anesthesia is necessary to address dental concerns that are necessary to keep your child healthy and out of pain.
Communication and cooperation between you and your dental professional is critical. The relationship and trust you develop with your child’s dentist will, in the end, lend a helping hand for a healthy dental future for your child.