“Ask the Experts” is a series on Baton Rouge Moms where local experts share their thoughts, opinions and answer questions relating to health, wellness and parenting. If you have a question for one of our experts, please leave it in the comments below to be featured in an upcoming article. February is Children’s Dental Health Month and we have an informative article from Ascension Children’s Dental.
As a parent, you may be surprised to learn that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that you take your child to the dentist when the first tooth erupts or by your child’s first birthday, whichever comes first. Many parents make the mistake of bringing their child to the dentist when they have their first toothache. This can lead to a more traumatic experience for your child’s first visit, resulting in unnecessary fear of the dentist.
Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be as easy and pleasant as possible. At our office, I believe in keeping this first appointment short. During the visit, I will evaluate your child’s teeth and gums and discuss any relevant oral hygiene instructions with you. If your child is older for their first visit, then I may recommend a cleaning and fluoride treatment. This first appointment really helps our team develop a trusting relationship with your child to promote stress free dental appointments in the future.
As a parent, it’s important for you to know that your child’s behavior towards the dentist is usually a reflection of your own attitude and level of anxiety.
I put together some tips to prepare your child for his/her dental visit, no matter their age, to help the visit go smoothly:
- Make an appointment for a time of day that works best for your child. We do not recommend scheduling their appointment during nap time or when they are just waking up from a nap.
- Parents are welcome and encouraged to accompany their child during the initial exam. This allows us the opportunity to communicate directly with you about your child’s dental health.
- During the initial exam, I often will have you hold your child in your lap with their head positioned in my lap. Before the appointment, you can practice holding your child in this knee-to-knee position so he or she knows what to expect when the time comes.
- Never convey anxiety to your child. Children are very receptive to words, moods, tones and body language. If a child can sense that you are fearful, they are likely to anticipate discomfort and become fearful too. Tell your child about the visit but don’t go into detail. Over-preparing your child can create anxiety.
- Watch what you say around your child. Never let your child hear of any past bad dental visits – either experienced by yourself or siblings. Be aware not to use words like “needle”, “drill”, “shot”, “pinch”, “yank”, or “pull.” Never tell your child that something may or may not “hurt.” Explain to your child that the pediatric dentist will count his/her teeth and will help them with the important job of keeping their teeth clean and beautiful. Keep it simple!
- Do not be alarmed if your child cries during the first visit. Crying is perfectly normal. Remain positive and supportive and work with me during this time.
The more positive and supportive you can remain before and after your child’s first dental visit, the better says Dr. Swauger, a pediatric dentist. He said that it is the parents job to build Healthy Habits For Your Kids. Each time your child visits the dental office, it will be easier and easier, especially if they remember the previous experience as a positive and enjoyable one. Your child will also be more likely to develop good oral hygiene habits and want to take good care of their teeth. Developing a good relationship at an early age with the dentist will most often help your children carry these routines well into their adult lives.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule your child’s first appointment, please visit www.ascensionsmiles.com or call (225) 402-4118.