Article contributed by Chris Lennox
Considering that adults often fear going to see the dentist, it’s hardly surprising how children feel at 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 forget. So how can parents make it an enjoyable adventure, instead of a nightmare?
You can actively prepare for your child’s first dental appointment simply by using the word “T-E-E-T-H” as your reference, .
T – TALK
The way that you talk about the dentist around your child goes a long way toward shaping his or her expectations, so it’s absolutely vital to choose your words carefully.
What might happen if you were to sit your child down and formally discuss his or her upcoming dental visit? Children have wild imaginations, and a formal talk may conjure all kinds of frightening imagery. A better way, we think, is to talk about the dentist casually, and in passing, as if it were something as ordinary as eating at a nice restaurant.
Of course, every child is different, and it’s essential to take your child’s specific personality into account. Staying away from definite answers is highly recommended: If it turns out that your child is forced to have a filling or other procedure, after you’ve repeatedly told him or her that everything would be fine, you might lose your credibility.
Instead, stay vague, light and breezy when mentioning the dental appointment, 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 motivational tactics accordingly.
A first dental visit is usually a pain-free ordeal with many dentists simply counting the teeth and doing a quick probe to see if there are any signs of infection or plaque. Many dentists allow children to sit on their parent’s lap during the exam. 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 the next visit.
Even if you do everything right, it’s important to prepare for a potential tantrum, even just a minor one. It’s only natural for them to feel a little uncomfortable at being examined by someone in a mask. So prepare appropriately by bringing along your kids’ favorite toy, book or something else.
Remember that every dentist has his or her own protocol. Get the lowdown before the first session to help manage your expectations and prepare appropriately.
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 the dentist is never anyone to be feared.
Do your best to encourage great oral hygiene from the beginning, and every visit will be a piece of cake (without the sugar, of course).
T – TEST RUN
Before you take your child to have their very first oral check-up, why not take them for a “test run”?
Dental clinics can appear mysterious and unsettling to certain children. They 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.
H – HABITS
Take note of any oral habits that your child may have, and remember to mention them when you visit the dentist for the very first time.
Do research on typical bad habits that can affect a child’s mouth, and try to get your own child to kick these habits as early as possible. At the dentist, try to be completely honest about these behaviors. The more your dentist knows, the better they will be able to care for your child.
Who’s Really The One Gonna Cry?
Check out this engaging video to identify the real emotional victim at a first dental appointment…