A child's first visit to the dentist can be a huge experience, with different people, new surroundings, sounds and sights to deal with. Regular visits to the dentist from the age of 2 and a half to 3 years of age is a good idea to help promote good oral health for the future and to allow six monthly check ups not to be feared by the child!
Here are a few tips to get you and your child started:
1. START YOUNG
In the UK it is deemed that a child should start attending from the age of 2.5-3 years of age or when all the deciduous teeth have fully erupted. This is very important to allow the child to develop a good relationship with the dentist, to have trust and build up confidence. Some people feel that deciduous teeth are not important, but this is not the case and they are there to maintain space for the future adult teeth to erupt into the correct position. If a child just attends when in pain then a bad relationship will occur from a young age and each visit will end up being a stressful one. Caries can be caught early if the child has regular visits and oral hygiene can be monitored.
2. USE THE CORRECT LANGUAGE TO THE CHILD
If a parent is anxious of dentists, this can transfer to a child, as they are keen listeners and will pick up on anything that worries the parent. I think it is good to use simple language about going to the dentist, such as " the dentist will be counting your teeth and washing away all those naughty bugs "
Try not to mention the words pain or hurt and never say to your child that the dentist is just going to look at your teeth, as this may not be the case once the child is in the dental chair.
3. DO NOT USE THE DENTIST'S VISIT AS A PUNISHMENT
If you threaten your child by saying I will take you to the dentist if you are naughty then this will not do well for their visits in the future! Make sure your child sees the dentists as being somewhere safe and potentially fun.
4. PREPARING YOUR CHILD FOR THEIR DENTAL VISIT
Before their first dental appointment you can start preparing your child by either carrying out role play and pretending to be the dentist and acting out what will happen in the chair. Count their teeth, perhaps ask your child to show you how they brush their teeth. Books with good illustrations about a trip to the dentist, would be a good idea too.
5. ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY
Be prepared for your child to be a bit resistant to treatment or even sitting in the dental chair, even after all that great explaining, role playing and reading books before hand! Your child may still not fully understand what is being asked or discussed and get nervous about this. This is okay and trust will be being built at each appointment until they love coming and will just run into the surgery and jump in the chair.
6. MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD KNOWS THAT COMING TO THE DENTIST IS VERY IMPORTANT
Your child should try to understand, with time, that seeing a dentist is very important to maintain good oral health and that this will always happen every six months.