Many adults who grew up to be dental chickens who dread going to the dentist usually did not have parents who provided understanding, information and loving support about dental care. As a result, they associated dentists and dental visits with many negative and painful feelings. Parents who want to encourage their own kids to develop positive feelings about regular dental check-ups can do a number of things to help their children avoid the sad and scared feelings that too many kids associate with the dentist’s office.
It’s important to choose the right dentist, a caring professional who specializes in children’s dentistry and who has excellent rapport with children. Get recommendations from family members and friends to find a dentist who surrounds himself with a staff that is also warm and friendly to children, making them feel safe, comfortable and happy from the moment they first step inside the dentist’s office. As soon as a child’s first tooth appears, it’s time to schedule that first examination. Plan for a first visit that is as stress-free as possible. Some dental clinics go to great length to make their centres children-friendly, organizing DVD rooms, party bags and toys, like the dentists at Medland Dental do.
Explain to your child that since you want him or her to have a beautiful smile just like mommy and daddy, regular visits to the dentist will help make that happen. Don’t provide too much information or explanation about what a dentist does, but have a pretend practice visit instead, making it seem like a fun activity for the child to open wide, have the dentist count his teeth and then present him with a toothbrush to help develop the good hygiene habit of daily brushing. Avoid having kids accompany you on your own dental visits because a dental office catering to adults may seem too cold and foreboding in a child’s eyes.
Kids who cry or whimper over the uncertainty of what might go on at the dentist’s office should be comforted and soothed but never made fun of. Wipe away their tears, reassure them that a visit with the dentist can help their teeth grow strong and healthy, and alert the dental staff that your little one may need some extra TLC. Avoid bribing kids with toys or candy to get them to go to the dentist, since this sets up a precedent that dental visits are something to worry about. Offer a reward that is dental related instead, something like their being able to pick out their very own toothbrush and the exact kind of toothpaste they want at the drugstore.
Children very often mimic what they see, so let your kids see you taking the time to brush after every meal and avoiding sugary snacks and other things that cause tooth decay. Don’t share details about your own complex dental procedures with them and avoid discussing things like pain, feeling hurt or getting a shot in front of them. Use every opportunity to praise your child after each dental visit, complimenting their smile and telling them how proud you are that their teeth are growing in beautiful, healthy and strong.
“Enjoy your smile!”