How many adults have you heard say that they are terrified of the dentist? And how many of those, through fear, have resisted the need to go to the dentist for regular check-ups, leading to poor dental health?
It’s up to you to ensure your child doesn’t fall into that trap by seeing that his first visit to the dentist sets a good foundation that will allow him to enjoy good dental health throughout his life.
The solution to ensuring your child does not develop any negativity towards going to the dentist is to gain their trust and co-operation from both yourself and the dentist. This, coupled with an early start in the dentist’s chair, will go a long way to securing your child’s good oral health. Most dentists prefer a child’s first visit to be around the age of 12 – 24 months.
An early start
You may think it’s unnecessary to start dentist visits so young because your child still has his baby teeth at this stage, but if there are problems with his gums or the formation of his adult teeth the dentist will be able to pick this up early on in your child’s life and deal with it. An early start will also give him confidence and so when he is older the fears of other children won’t affect him because he will already understand why it’s necessary for him to go to the dentist – and know what to expect.
Choose a dentist who is good with children because your child’s early visits will just really be about him exploring what it’s like to sit in the patient chair, open his mouth wide and allow the dentist to do a casual check of his mouth, teeth and gums. It’s essential for your child to have good, strong baby teeth as this enables him to chew easily and to learn to speak well.
Important factors to remember:
- Talk about the visit with him from a few days before the appointment
- Brush your teeth at the same time that he does
- Make brushing teeth a fun activity
- Never talk negatively about going to the dentist
- If you are one of the terrified ones, make sure he does not sense this
- Never lie to your child about what the dentist will do
- Never spring a dentist visit on him unexpectedly
- Get a book from your local library on visiting the dentist for the first time and read it together
- Be cool and casual
- Buy him a bright, fun new toothbrush to show the dentist
- Praise your youngster the whole way through the preparation as this will boost his confidence and make him excited about the visit
- After the dentist’s visit, be sure to praise him generously too but never use negative words – even -see I told you it wouldn’t hurt could conjure up the idea that next time there may be pain involved.
Unfortunately there are many children who do not see a dentist until there are problems, and then their first dental visit usually involves some form of pain. The fact that these children are unfamiliar with the dentist and the surroundings may make it much harder for them to cope with this procedure as they have not had the time to build up trust and confidence in the dentist.
The earlier you begin taking your child to the dentist, the better the chance he’ll have of preventing oral problems.