A child’s first visit to the dentist

How would you feel if someone you trust took you out for the day and en-route took you for a surprise visit to the dentist, expected you to be relaxed and open wide?

Few of us would be ok with this, I know I wouldn’t. So why do people expect a child to be ok with it?

When I have a dental appointment in the diary I like to prepare mentally as well as physically by being even more super clean/keen with my toothbrush and floss etc.

As with most things to do with children it helps if a parent or carer can attempt to see the world from a child’s perspective and not spring unwelcome surprises on them. Children are more confident and relaxed about new experiences when they are prepared and they have an idea of what to expect and going to the dentist is no exception.

Here are a few helpful hints to make going to the dentist a little easier for small people.

• Children should have their first visit to the dental practice at around 12months or 6 months after the first tooth has appeared. The earlier they get used to the environment the more routine and ordinary it will be. Ideally if a very young child gets used to going to the dentist and watching their parent have a routine check whilst sat on a lap they will not find it out of the ordinary when it is their turn, they may even like the idea so that they can be like Mummy and Daddy.

• If the thought of a child on your lap during a dental exam is not for you then a bit of role play at home a week or so before the appointment is a great way of making the experience more fun. Children are very inventive and playing dentists and patients is a great game (one little boy even bought his torch from home for his appointment to help the dentist see!)

• Anything that helps to make appointments relaxed and fun is a good thing. Be positive and upbeat about the forthcoming appointment and take care with the language used in connection with going to the dentist. Reassuring a child that ‘it won’t hurt’ as many parents do is not helpful as it hadn’t actually occurred to the child that it could possibly hurt.

• Children’s books are a great source of positive information and the Usborne First Experience ‘Going to the Dentist’ is particularly good.
So what happens?

• The child can sit on a parent’s lap if it makes them feel more confident or they can sit and have a ride in the chair, (this is about it for most small people on their first visit and is a positive start).

• If the child does decide to open their mouth and allow the dentist a look the dentist will

1. Check for decay
2. Count the teeth and chart them on the child’s dental records
3. Look for any problems with the gums, jaw and oral tissues
4. Chat with parent and child about oral hygiene, fluoride and give dietary advice

A few do’s and don’ts

Do
• Be a good role model, let your child watch you brushing your teeth and explain why you don’t eat or drink some foods that are not good for your teeth
• Take your child yourself to dental appointments rather than relying on relatives if possible
• Inform your dental practice about any special needs or medical problem your child may have.
• Ensure your child’s first visits to the dentist are for routine checks and not for problems or worse for pain

Don’t
• Communicate your fears of the dentist (if you have them) to the child
• Bribe the child into visiting the dentist
• Let anyone tell your child scary stories about going to the dentist or about dentistry in bygone days!

If you have any questions about bringing your child to the dentist or any concerns about their teeth do give us a ring on 01460 77517, we are always happy to help.

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