Grim statistics tell us that as many as 20% of children in the United States are going without important dental care. This can have catastrophic health effects down the line, and more than 40% of the nation’s children are showing up to kindergarten having already experienced at least two cavities.
Yet a dentist visit can be scary for a child. A childs first dentist experience is crucial to setting the tone for years to come and helping them to see oral hygiene as important and the dentist as a friend, not an enemy. Here are some things you need to know about your childs first dentist.
When Should My Child First Visit the Dentist?
Good dental hygiene should begin the moment you see your child’s first teeth breaking in. Even at four months, those early teeth can be washed with a washcloth. Not long after, you can start using a small, soft baby toothbrush.
Some parents think a child’s baby teeth are unimportant, but nothing could be further from the truth. Your child should start visiting the dentist at about age one. There are two serious consequences to neglecting your child’s baby teeth:
The first consequence is that you will instill bad habits in your child. If your child has never had to see a dentist or care about their teeth, you’re unlikely to find them suddenly cooperative about beginning a whole new regimen of tooth care when adult teeth come in around age six or seven. They’re likely to see it all as nonsense.
Damage to Adult Teeth
If the baby teeth are damaged, there’s going to be trouble down the line for the adult teeth. The baby teeth are placeholders for the teeth coming in later, and damage to those teeth can cause real problems later when the permanent teeth start to come in.
How Do I Choose My Childs First Dentist?
While it may be fine to take your child to the same dentist you use, you will probably be better off with a dentist for children. Pediatric dental care is not only geared towards working with the unique needs of children’s oral health but also in working with children themselves.
A pediatric dentist will have had extra training to know how to take care of children’s teeth in particular. They will also be ready for crying, squirming, and screaming in kids. They’ll probably have a waiting room outfitting with kids’ needs in mind, which means less stress for your child and for you as they enjoy all the distractions of a fun waiting room full of toys, books, and videos.
Most importantly, you can expect a pediatric dentist to be fully invested in helping your child to have a good first experience. These professionals know just how crucial it is that things go well, and will be ready and willing to do everything they can to make it as pleasant and fun as possible.
How Can I Make it Easier?
You can prepare your child for a visit to the dentist in a couple important ways:
- Expect success. In children’s education, it is well known that kids tend to rise or fall in line with expectations, in part because they’re feeding off the energy of the adults around them. If teachers expect a child to be dumb, chances are he or she will do poorly in that class. If teachers expect a child to be smart, the opposite happens. The same is true for you. Expect your child to do well, and they have a better chance of doing so. Stay relaxed and radiate positive energy to your child throughout the visit.
- Try reading and role play. Help your child see the dentist as cool!
- Always talk positively.Use only positive language about your child’s teeth and the visit to the dentist.
- Be prepared with distractions and favorite toys. Having these around can help your child see the dentist’s office as a fun and relaxing place.
- Plan for a treat. If you always go out for ice cream or to pick out a new toy after a visit to the dentist, your child will love it.
A childs first dentist visit is a crucial one. Make sure you’ve chosen the right dentist and prepare for success.