Make first dental visit a good one
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By George Malkemus  September 27, 2013 12:00 am

Having a good first dental visit is one of the most important aspects of having a long life with joy and health.  

Too many people are traumatized when young from bad dental experiences and thus avoid regular treatment throughout their life.  

This leads to painful emergency visits, which adds to their phobia.  Luckily now, the phobic patient can be safely and comfortably treated with sedation dentistry.

Today, children should have a wonderful first visit.  The key is for the parent to have a positive attitude and for the visit to be no big deal.  The worst is for the parent to say, “We are going to the dentist and it won’t hurt.”

The first time you take your child to the post office or the grocery store, you don’t say, “it won’t hurt.”  Kids are smart; they know something is up if the parent is uptight about going to the dentist.   It is so much better to say, “We are going to the dentist; it will be fun.”

Even still, a trip to the dentist is sometimes a scary experience for a young child.  Sometimes a sibling, friend or adult will scare them with a dental horror story, or the child has already had a bad medical experience. The dental visit could end up being a traumatic experience for the parent as well as the child. You can help prepare your child for a visit to the dentist in several ways.

Ways to prepare for your child’s first visit

• Go to your library and have an assistant help you locate books written especially for children about visiting the dentist.

• Read stories to your child about visiting the dentist.

• Ask your dentist if you can bring your child on a “field trip” to the office so that the child can see the waiting room, meet the people in the office, and maybe see a treatment room and sit in the exam chair.

• Talk to your child about your experiences of going to the dentist (only good experiences, please).

• Encourage your child to talk about those fears so that you can help your child to learn to deal with fears.  It is important to calm the child’s fears about the experience.

When you go to the dentist for your own appointment, please consider leaving children with a babysitter. Watching you undergo even a simple teeth-cleaning procedure can be very upsetting to a child.  

A child can be frightened by the sharp instruments on a dental tray or by blood that is oftentimes seen when a tooth is deeply cleaned.

The child may become fearful because she or he is not yet able to understand that the hygienist is not hurting you. And because the child cannot be close to you or sit in your lap for comfort, this becomes an even more stressful situation for all, including your hygienist.

First dental visit books

Here are four books that will help prepare your child for a visit to the dentist:

• “Going to the Dentist,” by Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers is well known for his pleasant, child-friendly manner, which is shown throughout this delightful little book. His words help reinforce the idea of giving loving support to a child and building trust. 

He takes children through the whole experience – why dentists are needed and the entire dental office visit. 

Wonderful photographs accompany each idea presented in the book. Mister Rogers wrote several first experiences books; you may want to read the whole series.

• “I’m Going to the Dentist, A Ladybird Before You Go Book” illustrated by Maxie Chambliss. The book contains pop-ups and moveable tabs. It includes drawings of instruments your child will see in the treatment room and that the dentist will use during the checkup. 

The child can move a tab and see how the instrument works. The book also contains good dental hygiene advice for your child.

• “Milo’s Toothache,” by Ida Luttrell. The book is written for children ages 5–8 who are learning to read. It is a funny story about a group of animal friends who are afraid of going to the dentist, but they want to go with their friend Milo, who has a toothache. The story will have children squealing with laughter at the zany antics the friends go through in the dentist’s waiting room. In the end, Milo has the last laugh on his fraidy-cat friends.

• “The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist,” by Stan and Jan Berenstain. This is a cute story about Sister Bear’s loose tooth. She’s a little fearful, but she goes to the dentist with her brother, where the dentist lets her watch Brother Bear’s exam. Sister Bear is afraid the dentist will use the big tooth yanker on her loose tooth. 

The authors artfully use humor to show children that a dentist is kind, caring and gentle. There are reminders in the story that reinforce good oral hygiene habits.

Having a good, comfortable appointment is the most important part of any dental visit.  This is particularly true of the childhood experience, so regular dental examinations and cleanings will continue throughout their lives.

Enjoy life and keep smiling.

 

George Malkemus has a Family and Cosmetic Dental Practice in Rohnert Park at 2 Padre Parkway, Suite 200. Call 585-8595, or email info@ malkemusdds.com.  Visit Dr. Malkemus’ website at www.malkemusdds.com.  

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