February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a great time to remind your kids about the importance of good oral hygiene. Unfortunately, for many kids, the dentist’s office can be a frightening place. Use these tips from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to help calm your little one before his or her next appointment.
Start now. The AAPD recommends that every child visit a dentist by his or her first birthday and establish a regular office. The earlier the visit, the better the chances of preventing dental problems, which can source fear for visits to come.
Test the waters. Parents with toddlers who have not yet seen a dentist should consider a “get acquainted” visit to introduce your child to the dental office before the first appointment.
Choose words wisely. Be careful about using scary words. Check-ups and 90 percent of first visits do not have anything to do with “hurt,” so don’t even use the word!
Time it out. Select an appointment time when your child is alert and rested.
Be confident. Children often perceive a parent’s anxiety. They also tolerate procedures best when their parents understand what to expect and prepare them for the experience. As parents become more confident, so will the child.
Make “pediatric” a priority. Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry, with two to three years of specialized training in treating children beyond dental school. Plus, because they see only children, their office environment is set up for children.
Manage expectations. Before the visit, explain that the dentist is a friend and will help your child keep his or her teeth healthy. Reinforce that the visit will be fun.
Share a story. Read your child a story about a character that had a good dental visit.
Offer control. Give your child some control over the dental visit. Such choices as “Will you hold your bear or should I?” or “Which color toothbrush do you like?” will make the visit more enjoyable.