Considering how many adults fear going to see the dentist, it’s hardly surprising that children feel deeply concerned when it comes to their very first oral check-up.
Going to the dentist for the first time is a big step in a child’s life, and one they are unlikely to ever forget. By remembering the word “TEETH”, you can actively prepare for your child’s first dental appointment, and make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
T – TALK
The way that you talk about the dentist around your child goes a long way to shaping their expectations, so it’s absolutely vital to pick and choose your words carefully.
A great technique with children is to talk about the dentist in passing, as if it were something as ordinary as going for a meal. Children have wild imaginations, and by sitting your child down and discussing their first visit to the dentist at length, you risk allowing their thoughts to run away with them, and increase the chance of huge distress occurring when the big day rolls around.
Of course, every child is different, and it’s essential to take your child’s specific personality into account when discussing the dentist. Staying away from definite answers is highly recommended: If your child is forced to have a filling after you’ve repeatedly told them everything would be fine, they might begin to lose faith in you. On the other side of the coin, if you try to prepare them for the worst, they might not want to go to the clinic at all. Stay vague, light and breezy when discussing the dentist, and make it seem like another ordinary day-to-day activity.
E – EXPECTATIONS
Preparing appropriately for your child’s first dental visit is all about managing expectations – for you as well as your son or daughter.
By meeting your child’s dentist beforehand and asking them questions about what you and your child ought to expect for this first session, you will gain reassurance as a parent and can plan your motivation tactics accordingly.
A first dental visit is usually a pain-free ordeal for all involved, with many dentists simply counting the teeth and doing a quick probe to see if there are any lingering signs of infection or plaque that need removing. The whole thing can be over in less than two minutes, and the ease of this first appointment will boost your child’s confidence immensely for their next visit. Many dentists allow children to sit on their parent’s lap during the process if they are feeling uncomfortable at all.
Even if you do everything right, it’s important to prepare for — and expect — a tantrum from your child, even if it’s just a minor one. It’s only natural for them to feel a little uncomfortable at being examined by someone in a mask, and child-friendly dentists will have seen it all before. Prepare appropriately for some whinging by bringing along your kids’ favourite toy along to comfort them.
Remember that every dentist has their own protocol. Get the lowdown before the first session from the dentists themselves to help you to manage your expectations and prepare in the best possible way.
E – ENCOURAGEMENT
The more you encourage the importance of great oral hygiene in your home, the less your child (and you) will have to worry about when it comes to that very first dental visit.
Children with healthy teeth and gums will undergo next to no treatment whatsoever on their initial appointment, allowing them to experience a pain-free visit that gives the impression that the dentist is never anything to be concerned about.
Do your best to encourage great oral hygiene from the beginning, and every visit from then on will prove to be a piece of cake for everyone involved.
T – TEST RUN
Before you take your child to have their very first oral check-up, why not take them for a “test run” beforehand?
Dental clinics can appear as mysterious and unsettling places to certain children, who might become a little unnerved by the sight of oral hygienists parading around in surgical masks or the sound of dental machinery whirring away in the background. Help your child to grow used to the dental clinic environment by taking them there just to have a look around and meet their dentist face-to-face. See how your child reacts, and continue to take them along for “test runs” until you feel as though they are comfortable within the clinic.
When it comes to your child’s first dental appointment, avoid taking them to your own dentist and search for one that caters specifically to children. These kind of oral hygienists know exactly what to say to kids, and how to explain dental treatment in a fun, friendly way that might even make them feel excited for their trip to the dentist.
H – HABITS
Take note of any oral habits that your child may have, and remember to mention of them when you visit the dentist for the very first time.
If your child frequently engages in practices like sucking their thumb, sucking a pacifier, or chomping down on a bottle, this can cause their teeth to come in crooked, and may cause problems when it comes to that first dentist appointment. Also, do your best to make sure your child doesn’t fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth, as the steady drip of contents can lead to some damaging bacteria in the oral cavities.
Try to get your child to kick these habits as early as possible, and be completely honest with the dentist about these behaviours when the big day arrives. The more your dentist knows, the better they will be able to care for your child.
Contributed by Chris Lennox