| 05/21/13

One in four children develop a cavity prior to their fourth birthday.  Taking a child to the dentist can be an intimidating process for the child, and a frustrating process for the parent.  A positive experience at the dentist office can go a long way in setting up a child for a lifetime of great oral health.  Avoid these five common mistakes to ensure that your child has a great visit with the dentist:

Don’t wait too long for their first visit
It’s recommended that parents bring their children into the dentist before their first birthday, or about 6 months after the eruption of their first tooth. These visits are often short, simply checking teeth, jaw, bite and gums. These short easy visits will help expose your child to the dentist, serve to elevate fear of future visits, and can help identify any issues to watch. If your child is already past three, make sure you mention that this is his or her first visit to the dentist to help them do a more thorough examination.

Don’t schedule your appointment for the same day
Do not make your visit to the dentist on the same day your child is scheduled to see the dentist. Scheduling appointments together may seem like a great idea because it is convenient, but the extra time in the office can serve as a source of anxiety and restlessness for your child.

Don’t use ‘scare’ words
Do your best to avoid words like ‘pain’ ‘hurt’ or ‘shot.’ It’s helpful to tell your child that the dentist’s job is to ‘check their smile and count their teeth,’ especially for younger children. Also, don’t promise that the visit will ‘be fine’ just in case your child does have to undergo a procedure. Don’t worry if you’ve already used these types of words, just make sure you keep it positive going forward!

Don’t try to control the visit
Let your child interact with the dentist and ask questions to both you and the dentist. Allow your child to answer the dentist’s questions, only interrupting if your child doesn’t reveal a symptom you feel is necessary for the dentist to know.  Most dentists are happy to demystify the procedures and explain what the machines do. Showing that you are comfortable with going to the dentist and that you trust your family’s dentist goes a long way to help ease any tensions or fear your child may have.

Don’t let your child brush unsupervised
Most parents think kindergarteners can brush by themselves. However, they don’t have the dexterity or enough practice to get it right all the time. Help them establish good dental hygiene habits for the rest of their life by ensuring they brush for a full two minutes twice each day and floss once a day. Make sure to replace their toothbrushes every 3 months or when the bristles are frayed.

If you child expresses fear of their dental visits, a great way you can help them feel more comfortable about their upcoming visit is to have a pretend visit at home first. Have them practice opening their mouth and use a toothbrush to count their teeth. Allow them to brush your teeth; laugh a lot to make it fun and brush their teeth as well.  The team work and imagination will help relieve some of the anxiety your child may feel about their trip to the dentist.

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