Your child’s initial dental visit should occur within 6 months after their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday. Many people associate going to the dentist with finding cavities, filling cavities and feeling pain. Early dental visits can potentially help avoid all three.
Seeing a dentist early, before tooth decay begins, helps prevent cavities rather than having to fix them at a later date. Early exams largely focus on the caregiver and what their role is in preventing tooth decay rather than the child.
During the early exam the dentist will discuss topics such proper diet, brushing, flossing, fluoride, finger sucking and other topics aimed at preventing tooth decay and some orthodontic issues. Examination of a young child is not difficult, but the method in which it is performed may be new to many caregivers. If a young child will not or cannot lay calmly in the dental chair a knee to knee exam can be performed. The picture below illustrates how this is to be done. Although some young children may fuss and cry during a knee to knee exam, these are not painful.
Often, parents are anxious about how their child will react to the dentist because they have had bad experiences themselves or they have heard about how scary the dentist is. Because of this some parents over-prepare by reading every dentist related book to their child and describing in detail what they imagine will happen. Others share their “horrifying” experiences with dentist attempting to empathize with their child. Both these methods often fail miserably. Too much or biased information can increase a child’s anxiety and form a negative perception before ever seeing the dentist. If a caregiver’s goal is for their child to have a positive experience then they must keep things simple and upbeat.
Just as you would not be too concerned about taking your child to the zoo for the first time, you should not worry about their first dental visit. A parent’s anxiety is easily noted by their children.
Children have good dental experiences when there are no teeth to be fixed, but when there is a cavity or other concern, it is important to use carefully selected words which do not promote anxiety. Out of the best of intentions, parents can scare their children unnecessarily by saying: shot, needle, yank, drill, hurt, etc.
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