Parents have learned that it is important to start dental care early in a child’s life in order to prepare them for a lifetime of dental health. Early visits to the dentist can stop any problems before they get worse and identify future problems that might appear as more teeth develop.
Pick the Right Dentist
Before you schedule your child for his or her first dentist appointment, make sure you find the best dentist for the job. The dentist you see regularly might be fine for you but how is he or she with children? Some dentists specialize in pediatric care but there are many other dentists who are great with children, as well. In addition to the dentist’s skill and patience with young patients, the ambiance of the office matters. A waiting room that is designed for children with kid-sized furniture, toys, and a friendly atmosphere can make your child feel more comfortable. A waterfall or music that covers up the sound of dental work can make everyone less stressed while waiting.
Prepare Your Child
Be sure to talk to your child about the upcoming visit. Explain that it’s like a doctor for teeth who will look in your child’s mouth to make sure everything is ok. If there will be a dental cleaning, explain how that will work and what your child should expect.
One way to help make your child feel more comfortable is to use a soft toy as a sample dental patient at home. Your child can play along as one of their toys gets to lounge in an impromptu dental chair, receive mock teeth cleaning, and then has bright and shiny teeth that feel great. Keep it light-hearted and explain everything your child should expect from the waiting room to the bright lights, and x-rays. Avoid making the dentist visit sound scary or too complicated.
Talk to the dentist office ahead of time to get a better understanding of what your child should expect during an initial visit. The dentist might even have a coloring book or other materials you can use to explain the visit ahead of time.
You want your child to be prepared for the dentist visit but not scared. Be sure other family members and caregivers know to avoid telling the child disturbing stories about painful dental procedures or the agony of wearing braces. Start out with a positive attitude about the trip to the dentist. If you avoid seeming concerned your child is less likely to be worried about going to the dentist.
Explain Why It’s Important
Discuss dental care and why kids need to brush their teeth. Often people fail to emphasize dental care when children are very young because their baby teeth will eventually fall out and be replaced by their permanent teeth. That is a mistake. Starting early helps children get into the habit of brushing their teeth and regularly going to the dentist. Those good habits will be important to them their whole lives. Medical research has also shown the importance of keeping teeth in good shape. Cavities that form in baby teeth can be painful, just like they are in permanent teeth. In addition, the development of problems in the baby teeth and gums can lead to issues with the child’s permanent teeth. Dental problems can also negatively impact heart health and overall wellness.