Editor's note: The sponsor of the mini dentist office in the temporary exhibit, Imagination: Celebration 40 Years Of Play, Summit Dental Health
Parents can ease their child’s fears about going to the dentist by setting a positive example. Summit Dental Health offers advice parents can use to help little ones relax before their dental checkups.
1. Start young. Find a dental home and introduce your child to the dentist as soon as possible.
“Definitely the most important thing is starting early. We like to see kids within six months after their first teeth come in,” said Lindsey Anzalone, DDS. “If we’re seeing them around their first birthday, that’s a good start.”
Dr. Lindsey Anzolone, DDS
Dental visits help toddlers and children feel at ease and emphasize a lifelong commitment to oral health. “Generally, that first visit we’re not doing a whole lot in the child’s mouth. We might sit them in a chair and take a look (at their teeth). … It’s a matter of talking to parents about what to expect (such as) when the first teeth will come in, when the first teeth will fall out. We’re also talking about brushing techniques … to make brushing more enjoyable for kids,” Dr. Anzalone said.
2. Speak carefully.
Refer to the dentist as a friend who will clean your child’s teeth with a special toothbrush. Use positive words; avoid words like hurt and pain.
“Say, ‘We’re going to the dentist and they’re going to count your teeth and sparkle them up and give you a prize at the end. Make it easy. Don’t tell them anything negative,” registered dental hygienist Kathleen Lohr said.
More often than not, parents scare kids. Dr. Anzalone encourages parents to talk about dental visits positively, especially if the parents themselves have a fear of the dentist. “That’s one of toughest things we have to overcome – when a child has never been to the dentist but has fears,” Anzalone said.
3. Practice at home.
Help your child develop a positive attitude by doing a make-believe dental check-up. Play “going to the dentist” with dolls, find upbeat kids’ books about visiting the dentist, and talk about “strong, healthy, happy teeth,” Lohr said.
Visiting the Summit Dental Health exhibit at the Museum is a great opportunity to get children use to sitting in a dental chair, to learn more about what it’s like going to the dentist and to pretend that they are a dentist.
4. Avoid bribery.
Promising special treats will make your child think something bad is about to happen. Lessen anxiety by praising your child for a good attitude and bravery.
“Tell them, ‘Oh you’re going to get a new toothbrush and get your teeth shined up. I’m going to take your picture for Grandma and we’ll tell Dad how many teeth you have,’” Lohr said. “Do say, ‘Wow, I’m really proud of you.’ Don’t bribe them with trip to McDonald’s or something. If you’re bribing them too much, they know something’s up.”
5. Emphasize the importance of dental care.
Teach your children that dental check-ups are a necessity so their teeth will remain healthy.
“Be a good example for your child. Let your child see you brush and floss your teeth. Show them that’s important that you’re taking good care of your teeth,” Dr. Anzalone said. “Make sure you’re getting your checkups even if (you have) an underlying fear.”
Pick up a brushing chart from the Summit Dental Health exhibit to help your child keep track of when they brush their teeth. Completed charts can be dropped off at any of Summit’s 10 locations
in the metro for a prize.
Eat healthy snacks, drink water, and minimize pop and juice. “A lot of times juice is portrayed as good and healthy, but most juices have as much sugar as soda,” Dr. Anzalone said. “That can be detrimental to a child’s teeth without parents really knowing it.”
For these and more dental health tips, visit SummitDentalHealth.net/blog.