Note: This blog is intended for general information and oral health education. No part of this post is meant to diagnose or treat any condition and all writing is the opinion of the author only. Dr. Katie-Rose Wagner is not affiliated with any companies, brands, publications, or commercial interests beyond her dental practice (Smiles By Rosie Family Dentistry, located in East Somerville).
Bringing your child to the dentist is not easy. You may be wondering what age is best for a first dental exam, what behavior to expect, and many parents are more nervous about the appointment than their kids! Here are some helpful Dos and Don'ts from Dr. Rosie Wagner, a dentist in East Somerville.
Dos and Don’ts For Your Child’s Dental Appointment
- Don’t say anything about the visit beyond “We’re going to the dentist! It’s going to be fun!” Even saying things like “Don’t worry; it won’t hurt” or “You’re just getting a cleaning, not a filling” can make a child anxious. Remember, the child may not have known that the dentist is something to worry about in the first place. Never say words like "needle" or "pain".
- Don’t offer a reward or bribe for the visit. It’s important to stress that dental visits are a normal part of life, not an ordeal to be worried about.
- Don’t wait! Did you know you can start bringing your baby to the dentist starting from birth? Earlier is better: the dentist can check for things like mouth sores and tongue-ties (which can make nursing difficult.) Dentists and staff can show parents and caregivers how to examine a baby’s mouth and clean the gums. They'll review fluoride and nutrition to make sure the child’s growing teeth are as strong as possible when they come in. Baby teeth start developing at 5 weeks in utero and adult teeth are already hardening at birth, so it’s never too early!
- Do wait in the waiting room during your child’s visit. This may be difficult for the parent, but there is a significant improvement in behavior and efficiency of the appointment when it’s just the child, dentist/hygienist, and assistant in the room. If this is a difficult change, parents and caregivers can stand near the treatment room so that you can see the child but he or she cannot see you. Once you see what a difference it makes, it may be easier to wait outside. Give it a try!
- Do take care of your own teeth to set a good example. Having family brushing time and telling your child when you are going to the dentist are both good ways to show that you value oral health. It’s not necessarily a good idea to have a child present at your own dental visit, since the sights and sounds might make him or her nervous. In general, showing that you care about your own teeth will help teach that oral health is a priority.
- Do ask about fluoride supplementation. The best time to take fluoride pills or drops is when the permanent teeth are still developing. The fluoride actually gets incorporated into the teeth instead of forming a coating on the outside. Teeth are forming from birth through age 16. Even if your city’s water has fluoride, people may not be drinking as much tap water as they think. It’s sometimes necessary to get a prescription for chewable fluoride to stay within the American Dental Association’s recommendation for pediatric fluoride intake.