In the previous article, I discussed at length about children’s dental fear coming from their environment and family. What about dental fear from their own experience?
There are 2 big issues with children and dentistry.
- Baby teeth are small and decay can eat through their teeth quickly.
- Children have vague perception of pain, which means numbness and/or a light touch can be perceived as discomfort.
This is the reason why the worst thing that can happen to a child is having a toothache and a tooth extraction at his/her first dental visit. Let’s imagine for a minute: The child had a toothache and they were put in a strange environment for the first time with a stranger who is taking their teeth out. It’s not surprising why I rarely see these kids back in the clinic again until they are much older with a much bigger problem. If they have children of their own by that time, you can imagine how their children are going to feel about the dentist.
So the question is: when should you take your child for his/her first dental visit?
Answer: Within the first year is a good time.
Imagine a different scenario here.
A child goes to the dental clinic for the first time. Nothing needs to be done because there are only a few teeth. The dentist might not even look in the child’s mouth. The child quietly plays in the corner of the room while mum or dad is having a check-up. The child sees that mum/dad is relaxed, similar to going to a family friend’s house. Every 6 months, the child comes back and more procedures are introduced. The child gets to play with mouth mirrors and tooth brushes and eventually has their teeth cleaned. They feel comfortable because they’ve never had toothache or pain and are used to having procedures done in their mouth. The child builds a great relationship with their dentist, follows advice and grows up not needing any fillings or experiencing pain. Dentistry became a part of the 6 month routine, just like seeing a doctor, servicing car, getting a haircut etc.
It’s all possible and children’s well-being depends completely on their parents.
- Take your children to the dentist early when you have a check-up. If one of the parents is scared of the dentist, let the children come with one that is not.
- To avoid the need for dental work early on in life, be mindful of how often your children are having sweet foods and drinks. Anything that sits in the mouth for a long time like a bottle or dummy should not have anything sweet on them.
- Assist your child with cleaning their teeth until they can tie their shoelaces completely by themselves. It’s at this time that they’ve developed the fine motor skills to brush most effectively.
- Be supportive and be wary of saying things that may instill anxiety into your children like “you’re being so brave” or “it won’t hurt”.
- Allow the dental checkup to be part of normal routine by avoiding the promise of rewards and treats afterwards.
To your healthy smile.
Supa Dental, Melton