Taking the fact that most adults are generally terrified of sitting in the dreaded dentist’s chair as a multitude of gadgets come at them out of the equation for a moment, a child’s first trip to dentist can be a certifiable nightmare. The anxiety that comes along with the fear of the unknown…the skepticism of this “doctor” prodding and poking in their mouths…and, of course, the sometimes inevitable pain. We’re here to give you some pointers on making your child’s first trip to dentist as stress-free as possible.
Understanding the First Dentist Appointment Age
Although most dentists will recommend kids see a dentist by the time their first birthday rolls around, twice-yearly dental checkups and proper home care remain the keys to ensuring pearly whites throughout childhood. Still, a survey of primary caregivers has revealed that for children who had seen a dentist – and 34-percent had not – the average first dentist appointment at the initial visit was 2.6 years of age. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age one or within six months after the first tooth erupts.
Interestingly, primary teeth typically begin growing in at approximately six months of age.
Meeting the Dentist Prior to the First Visit: Reducing the Anxiety
The fact is, the earlier the visit the better the chance of preventing dental problems. Here are some tips that go a long way toward making that first visit less stressful for all involved:
- First, choose a pediatric dental practice that boasts a dentist with at least two to three years of specialized training beyond dental school in treating children; additionally, make sure the offices are “child-friendly.”
- Select an appointment time when your child is alert and rested.
- You must understand that as the parent, YOU play a vital role in your child’s dental care – as such, children often times perceive a parent’s anxiety, which in turn makes them more fearful. Kids tolerate procedures best when their parents understand what to expect and prepare them for the experience; as you become more confident, so will your child!
- Explain beforehand that the visit to the dentist is like going to see a “friend” that will help keep his or her teeth healthy – and throw in, for good measure, that the visit will be fun.
- Answer all questions put forth to you by the child in a positive manner – and at the same time discourage “horror stories” from peers and siblings.
- Be mindful of phrases or words that may be deemed “frightening” – 90-percent of first visits don’t have anything to do with pain, so don’t even use the word “hurt.”
- Read your child a story about a character that may have had a positive dental visit; you can ask the dental office for suggested titles.
- Keep a running list of questions regarding your child’s oral health in advance – this could encompass such topics as home care, injury prevention, diet and snacking, fluoride and tooth development.
- Allow your child some control over the dental visit; choices such as “Which color toothbrush do you like?” will make the first trip to dentist a lot more enjoyable.
At-Home Tips for Kids’ Dental Care
Parents should brush up on oral health basics to ensure the well-being of their child.
Some steps to follow include:
- Clean up food residue after feeding by using a soft cloth or gauze to gently wipe down gums; this process reduces the sugars left behind and minimizes the chance of tooth erosion.
- Upon the arrival of the very first tooth, proper brushing is mandatory; parents are advised to utilize the softest toothbrush available twice a day with a minimal amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Upon arrival of all baby teeth, flossing once a day become mandatory as well.
- For optimum early-stage oral care, only allow children to sip on water, not juice or soda.
The most important thing is to make the first trip to dentist fun so a child does not develop any dental anxiety.
Visit the Park Avenue Dental Kids Page for Fun activities and healthy smile tips!
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