Dentist. Just saying that word or even reading that word brings up a lot of anxiety for people. Even for grown adults who have been visiting dentists their whole lives, or avoiding them their whole lives. We tend to pass our fears and dislikes onto our children, so naturally fear of dentists have been a long standing “tradition”. I don’t know what it is about the profession that makes many people afraid, but I do know it’s quite common. It is one of the top 5 fears, that is up there with death, heights, snakes, and spiders.
Dentists have been the main plot for scary movies, or fears of almost every popular kid’s show on the air, from Leave it to Beaver to Hannah Montana. This is what our children watch in their spare time, so they learn to fear us at an early age. When it comes to our kids, being afraid of the dentist can be a difficult thing. We want to teach them the importance of oral care and want their experiences with the dentist to be easier than ours, but sometimes their anxiety and fear gets in the way. I know my kids are always anxious before their appointment, and it’s hard as a parent to watch.
Your baby’s first dental visit should be around their first birthday or within 6 months of their first tooth erupting. After the first appointment your dental office will probably set up the next cleaning in 6 months. It is important to stay on this schedule, whether you think your child is having dental issues or not. Your child’s dentist will check for decay at every visit, most of the time a child will not have pain with a cavity, (see our blog “My Tooth Doesn’t Hurt How Can I Have a Cavity) so it is important to keep regular visits.
At the first appointment the dentist or their staff will record dental and medical history, discuss oral health habits, and answer any questions you might have. This visit will expose your child to the dental environment and help the child get to know our dental staff and dentist. This also builds trust, he/she can see how fun going to the dentist really is and they get a TOY at the end. Who doesn’t love getting a prize?!?!
Ways to prepare your child for their first appointment (or any appointment they are apprehensive about):
• Always stay positive and encouraging
• Avoid negative words such as “shot, pain, or hurt” Today’s dental visits, whether for an adult or child should be a pain-free experience, therefore these are outdated words and shouldn’t be used, even if you are telling yourself or your child “it won’t hurt”, “They won’t give you a shot” or “Don’t worry there isn’t any pain involved” You are placing words of fear in their head that might not of been there previously.
• Use positive words such as “clean, strong, or healthy” Let the child know that we are here for them, and for their health. “The dentist will make your teeth super clean, healthy and strong, like Superman or Wonder Woman!” It also never hurts to mention they will be getting a new toothbrush and a toy!
• Read books about the dentist. There are numerous books about going to the dentist for the first time, check those out at your local library!
• Watch videos about the dentist. YouTube has a ton of great videos about visiting the dentist, staring Elmo, Super Y, and many of your child’s favorite characters!
• Allow your child to bring their favorite toy, stuffed animal or blanket. Items that they are familiar with at home makes their comfort level higher. We encourage this and most of our assistants will offer to brush the baby doll, stuffed animal or super heroes teeth as well.
Sticking with this schedule, your child can grow up with a lifetime of healthy habits