A child’s first dental visit is usually thought to be full of anxiety and speculation about injection, poking around in their mouth. First dental visit don’t only make the child nervous but, the parents also get worried. However this can be reversed as parents can condition their child and prepare them for their first dental visit. Dental treatment can be enjoyable as well, based on how the parents condition their children.
While it is understandable that a child may feel uncomfortable and stressful sitting in a room of injections and dental tools, he or she may also create a liking for it based on the doctor and the insights of their role models.
The right time to visit a dentist: The first dental visit of a child should be anytime after the emergency of the first few teeth which normally occurs as the child turns an year old. Doctors advise that if the first dental visit starts at the age of 12 months, it can save your precious child from excruciating pain or long-term dental care. More importantly, a visit to the dentist is a must when any black spots or pockets are noticed on the teeth.
Prepare your child for a visit to the dentist: Children are naïve when they’re growing up. They easily inculcate habits from their parents. This makes it essential for every parent to practice and inculcate good habits in their children. The same applies when preparing the child for their first visit to the dentist. Since parents can themselves be apprehensive about dental treatment, they might unknowingly or unintentionally provoke a feeling or fear in the child’s mind, which may result to resistance and neglect towards oral and dental care.
To ease a child’s anxiety while visiting a dentist for the first time, parents must prepare the child to be comfortable in dental setting days prior to the appointment. Positive connotations must be attached to dentists and dental care. At no point should the child be scared by using words such as drilling, extraction, hurt, pain, needles and injection which will easily wary the child. Before and after each dental appointment, parents must talk about dentistry positive and create a safe and supportive environment for the child. Phrases like ‘the dentist will tickle your teeth’, ‘the dentist will paint vitamins on your teeth to make them strong can be used to build the child’s confidence.
The first appointment of the child should essentially be a relationship-building exercise, a visual inspection and a joy ride on the dental chain to familiarise the child with a dental setting without attaching any concept of pain or hurt to the entire experience.
When it comes to children, dentists normally do not start any treatment on the very first visit and try to get to know the child to form a friendly relationship with the child. This being said, a good dentist also plays a vital role in building positive associations with dentistry for the child. They help alleviate feelings of fear and apprehension allowing the growth of healthy dental practices.
In fact, dental surgeons are specially trained to be patient friendly and use latest pain-management techniques so that the child feels no or the least amount of pain possible. Such training gives comfort to the child and minimizes anxiety when they first visit the dental office. It also ensures that the first dental visit does not create any traumatic experience which leads long term fear, driving the child away from the dentist forever. This is especially crucial as oral health is correlated to our overall health.
Picking a good Dentist!
Choosing a good dentist is one of the foremost concerns when it comes to dental care for your child. It should be done meticulously by putting enough research work into it. This is important because your child’s attitude towards oral and dental care will largely depend on his or her interactions with the dentist.
While a parent would instinctively believe that their own dentist is the best choice for their child as well, it may not be the most appropriate choice. A Pedodontist is a child specialist in dentistry, would best understand the problems of a child and would effectively manage the child and his or her expectations.
A patient friendly dentist must be chosen for your kids who will dedicate sufficient time and pay proper attention to them. The dentist must understand child behaviour techniques, their growth and development, which results into the best possible dental care for a child.
Here are some questions that parents should be aware of during the child’s treatment process:
- If or not the dentist pays importance to prevention rather than extensive and prolonged dental treatments. Preventive treatment would include 6 monthly check-ups, radiographs to detect and diet education among others.
- Is brushing and flossing discussed with the Child? Is he or she being educated about good oral health?
- Are Fluoride treatment & Sealants used in the clinic as a preventive measure?
- Are there any Pedodontists at the clinic?
- What all measures does the dentist take to comfort the child? Often colorful and visually pleasing offices help alleviate the child’s anxiety. Children are known to be happy and stress-free in a clinic which has toys, colours, cartoon and games.
- Does the clinic follow the best sterilization process to ensure that all instruments are cleaned and pouched after auto-claving.
- Is radiation protection gear being used while taking X-Rays?
- If or not the clinic maintains digital records for potential ease and convenience.
• The first dental visit for children is advised at the age 12-24 months, preferably with a Pedodontist.
• First visit can be a short visit with no dental check-up or treatment to acquaint the child with a happy and safe environment. Try and go in the morning when the child is fresh.
• Clinics must practice safe methods and ensure asepsis and radiation protection.
• Prevention comes foremost and great emphasis must be laid on it to keep your child happy and smiling.
• Dentist should be equipped to store all records digitally.
(Disclaimer: The writer is Dr Prerna Beniwal, Paedodontist, Clove Dental. The views expressed are personal opinion.)