Parents are sometimes unsure as to when to bring their children to the dentist for the first time, failing to do so until all permanent teeth have erupted. In fact, the American Dental Association recommends that children visit the dentist for the first time within six months of eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age.
Early visits enable dentists to spot any potential signs of problems in a child’s gums, jaw and bite. It is also important to look for potential tooth decay; since milk teeth create a ‘space’ for permanent teeth to grow into, they should be completely decay-free. When you tell your child you are taking them to the dentist they may show signs of fear, worry or anxiety. Especially if it’s their first time.
Follow these tips to ensure a stress-free visit for kids:
What do They Fear?
Find out why your child is reticent to go to the dentist; have they overheard stories about procedures such as root canals, wisdom teeth extractions or other necessary dental procedures? In this case, a bit of role playing will help appease their nerves.
If you can, purchase toy dental check-up equipment. Show your child that the dentist will simply be looking into their mouth using a small mirror to obtain a better view. Explain that the ‘horror stories’ they may have heard from older relatives can be avoided by visiting the dentist regularly. And that following important advice regarding cleaning and flossing teeth is important for dental health.
If a child tends to feel anxious about new places and experiences, give them the gift of breathing techniques. Deep breathing exercises can stop anxiety from turning into in a full-blown panic attack.
An ideal way to introduce abdominal breathing is probably by using a dedicated children’s app. There are a plethora of free phone and tablet apps that instruct children to inhale and exhale for a specific period of time.
After completing these exercises many times, your child will learn to do them on their own. There are some apps that offer short activities that last three to five minutes. This is ideal for younger children, who may get bored or overwhelmed with longer activities.
If your child really takes to breathing, consider going a step further. Take them to yoga class for kids, which is proving so successful in terms of allaying fears, stress and anxiety.Make trips to the dentist with the kids easier with these tips to help ease dental anxiety.Click To Tweet
Dental Storybooks: Let Noah do the Hard Work
Reading books about dental visits is a great way to get children excited about their first visit. One of the most popular books is Noah’s Visit to the Dentist by Jupiter Kids. Another is How Many Teeth? by Paul Showers. This books is over three decades old yet explains important facts to children regarding how many teeth they will have during the various stages of their lives.
A great book for older children is The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Edward Miller. Since decay often arises where the teeth meet gums, it is important for children to know how important gum health is for oral health. Books are helpful because children are inspired by characters they can relate to. They want to copy them in everything – including visiting the dentist with zest.
Let Kids Know about the Anxiety Myth
For older kids, knowing about the mechanics of a panic attack, can allay their fears altogether. Explain to children that when their mind thinks they are in a situation of danger (even when they are not in any real danger), their ‘fight or flight’ response comes into play. In other words, the mind gets the body ready to run away from the danger, or confront the danger.
One of the things that happens in situations like this is that we begin to breathe in more rapidly. While oxygen is a good thing, when we obtain too much of it, our muscles can start to contract and we can even find it difficult to breathe. Too much oxygen is the reason why people in a panic attack find relief from breathing into a paper bag; by inhaling CO2, our oxygen levels lower, our heart rate goes down and we start feeling better.
Let children know that by breathing, it can our minds from tricking us into acting as though we were in a real emergency situation. As soon as we take in a deep breath and take very long to exhale, our heart rate goes down and the cycle that can erupt in a panic attack is stopped in its tracks.
Anxiety about seeing a health professional is something we can all relate to. But as far as dental visits are concerned, the sooner the better, since the consequences of neglect can be serious and costly.
Through breathing exercises, role plays and the clever explanations of fictional characters, your child will not only lose her fear of visiting the dentist; she’ll soon be asking you how soon he or she can go!
I hope these tips will help taking the kids to the dentist a little easier!
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