Kids Dentistry

Dental care is vital to give your child a sound foundation for a healthy life. However, for many youngsters, the prospect of a trip to the dentist is likely to cause anxiety or even fear. Having to stay still in a room full of unfamiliar objects while someone pokes around in your mouth with strange-looking metallic instruments is hardly a barrel of laughs for adults, let alone kids.

Although your youngster’s baby teeth will fall out eventually – by the time they’re around 12 to 14 years old – these primary teeth need the same degree of care as adult teeth. Early loss of baby teeth can result in problems as the permanent teeth develop, leading to crooked or crowded teeth.

Twenty per cent of youngsters in the U.S. suffer tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other research indicates that the same percentage of school age children are afraid of dentists. Here are five tips to help reduce the stress of dental visits, both for your child and yourself.

1. How to Handle Your Child’s First Dental Appointment

According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child should see a dentist by 12 months old or when they get their first tooth.

Take time to prepare your child (and yourself!) for their first dental appointment. This occasion – and the lead-up to it – is likely to lay the foundation for how they regard future visits to the dentist, so it’s crucial to start them off on the right foot.

Children around the age of two typically demonstrate increasing independence and defiant behavior, and this can be a problem when you’re trying to get your toddler to enter a dental office for the first time.

When preparing for this first dental visit, keep things simple, and don’t burden your youngster with too many details, which will only result in more and more questions and possibly increased anxiety.

Maintain an upbeat attitude about the visit but don't make promises you can’t deliver on. If you tell your child “everything will be just fine,” and the dentist then discovers problems that need treatment, your toddler may lose trust in both you and the dentist.

When you’re at the dental office, bear in mind that it’s normal for a young child to play up when confronted with having their mouth examined by a stranger. Stay calm and let the dentist guide you in how to handle the situation so that your child feels more comfortable, without the risk of them trying to grab dental instruments.

Early dental care will get your youngster into the habit of visiting the dentist, and this familiarization should make future appointments less stressful. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says a child’s apprehension can be eased by beginning regular visits to the dentist before a problem develops.

2. Find Someone Who Specializes in Dental Care for Kids

An adult-oriented dental office may make your child nervous, whereas the premises of a pediatric dentist or a general dentist who specializes in treating children will be geared toward being child-friendly. A pediatric dental practice will probably be decked out with amusing pictures on the walls, have toys, books and video games available, and screen TV shows and movies that kids enjoy. You could also take along a couple of your child’s favorite toys to add a familiar comforting touch.

Besides these distractions for your child, a dentist experienced in handling kids will be used to dealing with any crying or squirming in the dental chair. Even if your little one screams and kicks out the entire time, it’s nothing an experienced dentist hasn’t seen before, although it will naturally be upsetting for you.

Ask your dentist whether you can take your child to the practice before their appointment. Taking a tour of the dental office will give you the chance to show your youngster the dental chair and various equipment, while helping them to get to know the dentist and feel safe with them.

3. Set a Good Example

You can’t expect your child to accept a routine of regular visits to the dentist if you don’t practice what you preach, so make sure you keep your own appointments for check-ups. Dental anxiety can be transmitted unwittingly from parents to their children. If you’re nervous about your own dental visits and let this apprehension show when your kids are around, they’re likely to imitate your behavior and react in the same way when faced with a trip to the dentist.

4. Use Surprise Rewards, Not Bribes

The American Dental Association says parents should never bribe their children to go to the dentist. Instead, be supportive and use positive language before and during the appointment to help your child stay confident about the experience, particularly if they’re on the sensitive side. After the visit, praise your youngster for their bravery and good behavior, and occasionally surprise them with a treat such as a trip to the playground or a small gift.

5. Don’t Keep Your Youngster in the Dark About Appointments

Tell your youngster well in advance about an upcoming dental appointment to give them time to get used to the idea. Keeping them in the dark about the appointment until the last minute is likely to cause greater anxiety and create distrust. Explain the procedure in a way they can easily understand.

Finding the Right Dentist for Your Child

Without professional dental care from a young age, your child will face the risk of tooth loss and gum disease that can also affect other parts of the body. Finding a dentist experienced in treating youngsters is the first step toward setting your child on the road to a healthy life. A good kids dentist will have a strong focus on preventative dental care for kids and will be able to offer you expert advice on how to keep your child’s smile sparkling and healthy.