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Tips For Children Dental Visits

School is out for summer, and this is the time of year many parents schedule dental appointments for their children. This blog post will cover some tips and tricks to make dental appointments for children a fun and positive experience.

The first consideration for a positive dental appointment is when to schedule an appointment. In terms of age, it is recommended to start visiting the dentist by age one. This allows for screening for developmental issues and instructions for oral care to prevent dental problems from developing. This helps set your child up for a life of healthy teeth.

Time of day is important, which many parents are surprised to hear that it is recommended that young children are scheduled in the morning when they are fresh and not tired from the day. Most children become uncooperative when tired, therefore we want to give them the best chance for success as possible. In fact, many pediatric dental offices avoid scheduling children under the age of six in the afternoon, especially if it is more than a check up.

Preparing your child for a dental appointment is the second consideration. ‘Less is more’ as the phrase goes and that holds true in this situation. The less a parent or sibling discusses an upcoming dental appointment the better. Many parents will try to prepare their child by telling them that it won’t hurt, they won’t do anything, or it will be easy. Many kids will pick up cues from these phrases and realize there must be a risk that something might hurt and become anxious. Simply share with your child that they get to go to the dentist – just as if they were going to the library. Keep it light, upbeat, and positive, especially if you the parent get nervous at the dentist. Children will pick up on a parent’s fear and may become fearful themselves.

The most controversial topic for pediatric dentistry is whether parents should accompany the child into the treatment room. This has changed dramatically over the past 20 years I’ve been a dentist. We were trained to not allow parents into the treatment room because most children are much more cooperative when the parent is not present. Although we do find most children are more cooperative without a parent present, the culture has changed, and most dentists allow parents into the treatment room. Some pediatric dentists continue to prevent parents from the treatment room due to working with the most behaviorally challenged children.

As a parent, if you decide to accompany your child to the treatment room, be prepared to support the dental team. If a child is acting out and not cooperating, it may be best for the parent to leave the room because the child is seeking attention from the parent. It is also critical to continue to stay positive and use the positive terminology in the treatment room. Many times, parents will attempt to help and use words such as shot, pain, or hurt and after that phrase the child becomes completely uncooperative.

Every child is different and as a parent you know your child best, but hopefully these considerations are helpful in making your child’s dental visits fun and successful. Of course, the most fun dental visits are the ones where no invasive treatment is needed. Not all invasive dental treatment can be avoided, but proper home care and diet has been consistently shown to greatly reduce the need. Therefore, it is recommended for parents physically brush and floss their child’s teeth twice daily until they are old enough to bath on their own. After that, we recommend the parent continue to hold their children accountable by ensuring they are doing proper homecare themselves at least twice daily.

This blog post was written by Dr. Joiner to also be published in the Capital Democrat for the Staying Healthy Article in July 2021. To learn more about how to prepare your child for dental visits, we have a document with more details HERE.

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