Kids Oral Health Series- Pediatric Dental Visit Tips
Visiting the dentist with your child-how to make it easier on both of you
Getting your child to the dentist can be a chore on the best of days, and some visits go more smoothly than others. At Diamond Dental we understand that it can be tricky to get young children to cooperate which is why we wanted to help make it as easy as possible for your child to have a pleasant dental experience by offering our tips for success such as what time of day best works for your appointment and how to ensure an easier visit. Read on to learn our kid’s dental visit tips.
When Should your Child Visit the Dentist?
Timing Is Everything
- Avoid scheduling appointments during or directly after naptimes: Having a tired child try to listen is always a challenge, and if they are doing something they are not thrilled with like visiting the dentist it’s going to pose a challenge. Make sure your child gets their regular nap and that their appointment gives enough time after naptime for them to readjust to being awake. If your child is always cranky after waking up, factor that in too.Avoid scheduling appointments directly after camp or school: For older children, avoid cramming in a dentist appointment right after day camp or school. If a child has already exhausted their listening and behaving for the day, or had a bad day or had tests, they may not have the patience or stamina to make it through the appointment successfully.
- Avoid back to back appointments: If you have more than one child, ideally you will schedule their appointments on separate days, or at the same time (in the case of a cleaning) to avoid having one child wait for the other. Waiting can use up a child’s patience and if a child is nervous it will give them time to feed their anxiety. If it’s unavoidable choose the child with the most experience at the dentist who will relay their experience in a positive way to the child who has to go next.
- Avoid meal times: A hungry child is not a happy patient. Feed your child a light meal before the appointment to avoid “hanger.” You want your child to be comfortable so feeding them a light meal an hour before their appointment is ideal. Feed them at home if possible so they can properly brush their teeth before their visit and avoid heavy foods for children with a healthy gag reflex. If it’s not possible to brush their teeth ask the office for a toothbrush and toothpaste as soon as you arrive for your child’s dental appointment so they will be prepared.
Be a Role Model
- Try to leave Your Anxiety at the Door: If your heart races at the very thought of the dentist, your child can probably tell. Kids are sensitive and pick up on our anxiety. Most people with a phobia of the dentist (Dentophobia) develop it at a young age, which is why it’s important to create positive experiences for young children. Children between the ages of four and six are especially impressionable. Try to keep a positive attitude and don’t pass on your fears. colgate.com, agrees, “The most important thing you can do to help children feel comfortable at the dentist is to control your own fears, stay calm, and present a positive attitude.”
- Encourage your child to speak for themselves: When kids are really young we get used to speaking for them. But there is a time when it’s best to teach kids to communicate for themselves. For example, if your child asks about getting a cavity filled, encourage them to ask the dentist and communicate any fears they may have. If will help them feel in control. At home encourage the message that caring for their teeth will make them strong and healthy so they have that message going forward for the rest of their lives.
- Keep Cool If Your Child Won’t Cooperate: If your child gets upset during his/her visit, stick it out. The worst thing you can do is remove them from the chair and leave. It will make the next visit more difficult and going to the dentist is something they are going to have to do for the rest of their lives. Try to assess why your child is acting out. Are they truly afraid, or are they testing the situation? Work as a team with your dentist to keep the visit going, allowing the dentist to lead. You can jump in when you feel it is helpful but by allowing the dentist to turn the visit around it will help establish trust for future visits. Though it may be hard for you to see your child stressed or you may be embarrassed, try not to worry. We have helped many kids through the exact situation before. According to the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry: “In the healthy communicating child, behavioral influences often are more subtle and difficult to identify. Contributing factors can include fears, general or situational anxiety, a previous unpleasant and/or painful dental/medical experience, inadequate preparation for the encounter, and parenting practices. Only a minority of children with uncooperative behavior have dental fears, and not all fearful children present dental behavior guidance problems.”
Keeping regular appointments such as dental cleaning with our hygienist and check-ups make it less scary for children as it becomes more normal if they visit often. Visiting often also has the added bonus of making check-ups easier since they are maintaining their hygiene. With more frequent cleanings and visits you lessen your child’s chances of getting a cavity, ensuring their future visits will be easier. Need an appointment for your child? Follow the timing tips above and schedule an appointment today. If you have questions or concerns about your child or your child has ADHD, sensory issues, or something else you feel may influence their behavior that we should be aware of, feel free to call our office beforehand so we can come up with the best treatment plan together.