Their Previous Experiences
One of the challenges we have is that many children don’t have their first dental visit until they are 3 years old or older. By the time a child in the U.S. is 15 months old, they have had 25 shots for their vaccinations. This can be a very traumatic experience for any child, and consequently they approach any medical professional with caution and sometimes fear. So when they meet us for the first time, they only have this previous history to relate to us with. We start with a disadvantage and we have to make up for that.
Their First Visit
The ADA recommends that we see children for their first visit when their first teeth appear, so generally at 6 months. At this appointment, we just “lift the lip and look” to make sure we don’t see any immediate dental issues emerging. Then we would like to continue to see them twice a year to look at their teeth, and as they allow us, we will take radiographs as appropriate and begin working with them on brushing habits and eventually clean or polish their teeth. We can also go through a simple risk assessment with you to make sure you’re doing all of the right things to help prevent tooth decay. Again, our goal is for them to be comfortable and confident in their dental care.
What to Do
Talk to your child about how much you love seeing your dentist and hygienist and how wonderful and caring they are. Help them understand that their dental professionals are their friends. Just speak in positive terms. It’s generally best for young children to have early morning appointments, when they are fresh rather than later in the day when they may be tired. Bring them with you to meet us during your check up appointment to they get an opportunity to meet us, and maybe let us have a peek at their teeth and count them. We like to introduce small children into dentistry gradually so that they gain confidence and trust. We don’t believe in holding children down and retraining them, we want their dental visits to be a positive experience. We would rather lose the battle and win the war. Our goal is to have them become great dental patients who love their dentist and hygienist.
What Not to Do
While this seems obvious, it’s best not to discuss any specifics with them. Don’t talk about needles and drills, or how it will or won’t hurt. Telling someone that something isn’t going to hurt, generally gets interpreted that it’s going to hurt. Please give us the opportunity to help your child navigate comfortably and confidently through any dental experience. Fear of the unknown is normal, it’s okay for your child to be afraid. We will work with your child to gain their trust and help them become great dental patients for life, and a lifetime of a healthy beautiful smile.