You may imagine your little one smiling at you in the distant future with their full set of pearly white adult teeth, and taking care of their teeth can seem of utmost importance - and it is. Taking your child to regular dental appointments can help protect their teeth and overall oral health. However, a simple dental visit can easily create anxiety for both parent and child. Be proactive to ensure that your child is the happiest one at the dentist’s office, and you will probably be the happiest parent there.
1. Start taking your child to the dentist early in life. The Canadian Dental Association recommends taking children to their first dental appointment by the time they are one year of age or within six months of the first time a tooth appears in their mouth. When you start taking your child to the dentist early in life, they have a chance to feel comfortable with the environment, smells, and sensations they may experience at the dentist’s office.
2. Read dental-themed books to your child. Celebrate the importance of dental care and the role that dentist’s play in your child’s life by reading several dental-themed books aloud to your child. Some well-regarded choices to help children embrace going to the dentist and their overall dental care include The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss; Just Going to the Dentist (Little Critter) by Mercer Mayer; Open Wide: Tooth School Inside by Laurie Keller; Doctor De Soto by William Steig; and The Crocodile & the Dentist by Taro Gome.
3. Try role-playing with practice appointments. Children learn so much about the world through playing. Encourage playing as though your child is the dentist and you are the patient, then vice versa. You can have your child sit in a reclining chair, and you can let them know what may be asked of them. You can ask that they open their mouth for the dentist. Just be sure that other siblings who may want to join in don’t try to scare them with drilling noises or things that may unnecessarily scare your child.
4. Keep the conversation very positive. Your child is probably paying close attention to what you say about going to the dentist and how you say it. You may explain to your child that the dentist wants to check their smile and count their beautiful teeth. Although you don’t want to be so positive that it’s misleading, it is important to stay calm and be encouraging about the visit.
5. Make plans for after the dental appointment. One way to keep your child’s spirits up during the dental appointment is to make fun plans after it’s over. These should be plans that don’t involve food in case your child’s mouth is still numb after the appointment. It could be something simple like going to their favorite playground, or you can make a full day of it by going to a museum and then a movie. Or let your child choose the activity after their dental appointment.
6. Lead by example with your attitude and habits. How your child thinks and feels about their dental care depends on you. Your little one is watching you when you may not even realize they are doing so. Be sure to be proactive about your own daily dental care habits, and you may even want to have your child tag along to your own dental appointments if you have an adult who can stay in the waiting room with them so that your child can become familiar with the surroundings (and noises).
Finally, with so many wonderful paediatric dentists practicing in Calgary, take the time to find the right dentist for your child, and try to stick with the same dentist throughout your child’s life so that they have a sense of familiarity and comfort when they go on biannual appointments. You may soon find that your child is looking forward to going to see their dentist.
Robin is a journalist, and a children’s book author. She often has her feet on a dance floor, her nose in a book, or her arms around a rescued animal.
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