By Dr. Douglas B. Keck, DMD, MSHED Dental Director, Healthcare Network
It is normal for children to fear going to the dentist. With the odd sounds and smells of the office coupled with strangers in masks wielding metal instruments who are poking around in their mouth, their fear is understandable. However, for the health of their teeth and their emotional well-being, it is important to help your child overcome their dental anxiety or even better make sure they don’t develop a fear in the first place.
Don’t delay care. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that kids have their first dental checkup when they get their first tooth or no later than their first birthday. And, similar to adults, children should see the dentist every six months. Routine check-ups allow the dentist to monitor their development which, coupled with consistent at-home brushing and flossing, can prevent serious oral health issues. Routine visits can also help your child build a healthy relationship with dental check-ups.
Set expectations. Before you bring your child to their dental appointment, talk positively about what will happen. Explain how the hygienist and dentist will look at their teeth to see how healthy and strong they are. Also, let your child know the staff will use helpful tools to count, examine and clean their teeth to make them white and bright.
Practice at home. Play dentist! Have your child sit in a chair and hold up a mirror as you gently brush, floss and count their teeth. Remember to keep things positive, avoid scary noises and no talking about drills, needles, or pain.
No negative language. If you struggle with dental anxiety yourself, you may unwittingly pass your fear on to your child. To prevent your child from inheriting your fear of the dentist try not to show or talk about your distress in front of your child. If you cannot hide your dental anxiety, consider explaining to your child that this is not a good fear to have and how you are working to overcome it or bring along another trusted family member who has no anxiety.
Take your child to pediatric dentist. A pediatric dentist recognizes a child’s experience at the office can shape their view on dental care for years to come. Due to this, all the staff in a pediatric dental office are trained on techniques to make your child’s visit as comfortable as possible. Furthermore, pediatric dentists undergo specialized training to work with young mouths and teeth.
Sedation: In some instances, if extreme fear or a young age compromises treatment, your pediatric dentist may recommend sedation. Moderate sedation can ease discomfort and anxiety especially if several procedures need to be done during a single visit. Additionally, if you child has a medical, physical or emotional disability that limits their ability to understand directions and remain calm, sedation can help.
About the Author
FEATURED PHOTO – Dr. Douglas B. Keck, dental director for Healthcare Network, provides comprehensive dental care at several sites throughout Collier County. Healthcare Network offers a sliding fee scale for patients needing financial assistance. To request an appointment, call 239-658-3000 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org.