Kids Dentistry: Teach Your Little One to Love the Dentist

Parents want their children to grow up healthy and happy. This mean providing kids with the tools they need to thrive as adults – especially healthy habits.

Excellent dental health requires a thorough (and consistent) at-home care regimen, as well as regular trips to the dentist. Instilling these habits in your little ones can seem daunting at first, especially if they struggle acclimating to the new environment and sensations of a dentist office. Fortunately, there is plenty parents can do to improve their child’s experience at the dentist’s office. Follow these tips and your kid may soon come to appreciate – or even love – visiting the dentist.

Visit the Dentist Early and Regularly

The most reliable way to reduce stress caused by something unfamiliar is to simply become more familiar with it. We fear what we do not understand. As such, a trip to the dentist office becomes less scary to children when they are certain they know what to expect. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents begin bringing their child to the dentist by the time they turn one year of age.

In addition to providing the young patient with a comprehensive oral exam, the dentist can offer parents additional resources. These include guidance on how to teach proper brushing techniques, cavity prevention tips, setting a timetable for how often the child should visit the dental office, and more. Even if your child is too young to fully soak up this knowledge themselves, simply familiarizing them with the dentist, the staff, the office, and the norms of visiting (like sitting calmly and still in the patient chair) can pay immense dividends later on.

Take a Tour of the Dental Office

There are a number of misconceptions about what a trip to the dentist’s office entails. In order to reduce the number of unknown variables that may be stressing your child out, contact your dentist about scheduling a tour of the office before the appointment. It is in everyone’s best interests to dispel the mystery and myths that surround dental appointments. A brief, guided tour of the facility can accomplish just that. In the safe company of a loving parent and subjected to zero expectations beyond keeping an open mind, children often enjoy this low-stress tactic designed to ease them into feeling comfortable at the dentist’s office.

If possible, request that the tour include introductions to all the members of the staff with whom your kid is going to interact at their appointment. This way, they will be walking into an office of friendly faces, as opposed to strangers. Dentists are also often happy to educate their patients (of all ages) on the importance of dental care.  A pre-appointment tour is a great way to speak in-depth about the importance of the work that the dentist will be doing. This provides a sense of purpose to the next appointment, as your child more fully understands why it is important he or she be the best patient he or she can be.

Practice Being a Patient at Home

Starting dental education at home as early as possible is the most certain path to success. A dentist office is full of unusual noises, strange adults in stranger clothes, totally new smells, and more, all of which is very distracting (and possibly upsetting). Introducing your child to dental health concepts in the comfort and safety of their home is a fantastic way to ensure they absorb as much information as possible at their own pace.

Play pretend dentist with your child, modeling the sorts of requests that they can expect. You can use a small mirror to inspect each other’s teeth. You can also visit your local library to borrow books at your kid’s reading level that are relevant to dental care. Read them together and answer any questions that might arise.  The most important thing is that you engage with your child on this topic in a way they find fun and to which they respond positively. Raleigh Female kids dentist Anna Gladwell has two children at home and she has often expressed how important it is for parents to offer a great model for their children. If kids see parents brushing, they are going to do the same. 

Bring a Little Piece of Home into the Office

When the appointment arrives, there are several things you can do that day to make the experience more pleasant. The most obvious step is to remain in the room, either clearly in sight or (if possible) holding the young patient’s hand. Just knowing a parent is in the room can be a huge relief. However, you do need to be especially careful to be as positive and upbeat as possible, because your kid will likely mirror your attitude and energy.

Many dental offices are equipped with a television, which you can ask to turn to your child’s favorite channel. You should also ask your dentist what he or she allows young patients to bring with them into the chair. You might find that your dentist is happy invite a favorite stuffed animal or toy into the room to be held throughout the procedure. An increasing number of dentists even allow things like music (via earphones), so you can DJ your child’s trip to the dentist with their favorite, calming tunes.

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