When it comes to children and oral health, the stakes can be high, and not a lot of families are taking every action they can to keep their children’s teeth healthy. Data from the CDC says that out of children between the ages of 5 to 11, 20% of children have at least one decayed tooth that’s going untreated. It’s important to get started to avoid this potentially becoming a more costly and painful issue.
According to Lucio Persichetti, a dentist in Warren MI, “the first teeth erupt around six months old. Therefore, we recommend bringing your child to the dentist by their first birthday. This will help them get used to the dentist from an early age so as to nip any fears in the bud. You may say ‘why get proper dental care for my kid’s teeth when he will just lose them anyway?’. Well, healthy primary teeth will pave the way for healthy adult teeth that are coming up behind them, allowing for proper spacing.”
So, what’s keeping all these children from getting the help they need? Sometimes, it’s a matter of economics, or not understanding the role a dentist plays. One surprisingly common issue that keeps a lot of parents from taking to their children to the dentist is the child’s basic fear. The stock pop culture of the image of the dentist may be good for a laugh, but it can do a surprising amount of damage if it’s keeping children from getting the care they need. Here are some ways to tackle the issue.
Schedule a Relaxed First Visit
Part of the reason why Dr. Persichetti recommends seeing the dentist early in a child’s life is not just for their health, but also for their comfort. Most pediatric dentists have a basic regimen they go through with children who are seeing the dentist for the first time, working to create a relaxing atmosphere in the office while explaining to them what they do and the tools that they use. In some cases, they may even set up a false first visit, where no procedures are done, but the child gets a basic understanding of what the procedure will entail, a “dry run” if you will.
It’s not a bad idea to try and reinforce this at home when you are brushing to make it clear that oral health is something to be happy and excited about, not scared of. If you are looking for a new dentist, ask ahead of time what their procedures are to welcome new children to their practice. The ideal goal is to get your child to see the dentist as a friendly face.
Bring Along a Toy
In a perfect world, everyone would gently introduce their kids to the dentist and there would be little dental anxiety at all. However, that’s just not the case a lot of the time. Bringing something as a distraction during the visit can help. Something like a favorite toy, music through headphones, or even watching something on a tablet may get your child through their dental procedure with minimal fuss. One thing you don’t want to do is “bribe” your child to go to the dentist. This doesn’t really address the core issue of anxiety, and may create another issue by encouraging a child to think they can get something they want by being difficult.
Consider the Options
As an extreme option, some people consider sedation dentistry as a potential option when their child is reluctant to go to the dentist. While this is feasible, sedation dentistry is a larger umbrella that includes a variety of different medications. These can include taking a pill, using an IV, or breathing in laughing gas. If you are thinking about using this, you’re going to want to have a chat with your dentist well ahead of time on what they offer, and what out of that selection is the best for your child.
Set the Example Yourself
As one final note, leading by example means a lot when it comes to parenting in general—but especially in terms of helping your children conquer their fears. There are a lot of adults out there who have their own apprehensions about going to the dentist. If you are one of them, try to keep that mentality out of things when explaining to your child what is going on. Try to avoid any sort of verbiage relating to pain, and just explain how the dentist is a person who is here to help your child stay happy and healthy.
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