Taking children to the dentist can be tricky, and this is especially true for a child’s first dental visit. Some children find it hard to sit still at the dentist and may behave disruptively, running around or touching things in the dentist’s office. Alternatively, some children can feel anxious or intimidated in new situations or interacting with strangers and will not immediately warm up to the person in the white coat. Furthermore, sharp-looking, noisy dental instruments can be frightening to children who have been known to throw tantrums or have meltdowns once seated in the dental chair.
If you are a caregiver who is planning to take a youngster to the dentist for the first time, here are some things you can do to ensure that your child gets the best out of his or her treatment and the visit goes as smoothly as possible.
1) Choose a kid-friendly dentist
Some dental practices are more kid-friendly than others. You can call beforehand to find out what amenities the dental practice offers for kids, e.g. kids waiting room/play area, stickers, child-sized dental chairs etc. Taking your child to a pediatric dentist rather than to a general dentist is recommended since pediatric dental facilities provide child-friendly environments, and the dental staff is trained to work with children.
2) Orient the child beforehand
Calmly discuss the upcoming visit with your child. This will satisfy your child’s curiosity and also help them to feel prepared. During a first visit, the dentist will usually do a physical examination, take x-rays, and perhaps do a dental cleaning. Let your child know what will be expected of them. Also, prepare your child to like the dental practitioner by painting the dentist as a nice person who likes children. Build up positive associations in your child’s mind so that dental visits don’t seem scary or even that big of a deal. Some dental practices offer office tours and taking the child on one beforehand is a good way to orient them to the new environment.
3) Communicate with the dentist
Let the dental staff know up front of any allergies your child has, as well as any habits that might affect their oral health e.g. thumb sucking. You should let the dentist know of any concerns you have regarding your child’s ability to receive dental care.
4) Stay with your child
It’s important for parents to stay in the examining room with younger children. This allows you to offer moral support and be a comforting presence for your child. By staying in the examining room, you’re also able to observe the dental staff in action and make sure you are comfortable with the way care is being delivered.
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