Tips to Help Prepare Children for a Dental Visit
Encourage age appropriate habits at home:
- 6 and under: Even if your child wants to do the brushing by themselves, they frequently lack the dexterity needed to properly clean the teeth. Try to help them as much as you can and focus on getting every surface of the tooth.
- Age 7-12: At this point your child likely knows what to do, but now it is a matter of execution. Continue to encourage good habits, but be ready to help if you are not seeing results.
- Ages 12-18: Your children are becoming more independent and have access to different food and drinks that may negatively affect their teeth. They need to be reminded to keep up with home care and maintain regular visits. Otherwise minor problems can become major.
Time of the day:
- It is important to avoid scheduling during a normal nap time. It can result in a negative experience that can stick with them for a long time.
- For older children, try to avoid more elaborate dental work right after school because kids tend to be mentally or physically tired. It can make the appointment very difficult for them.
Make one child the ‘model’:
- Try to schedule the older or more cooperative child first, and have the other watch to see how well it goes. This creates positive energy for the next child.
Hungry patient is not a happy patient:
- It is good to make sure your child is not hungry when they visit the dentist. It is just one more thing that can make them grouchy or uncooperative. But if they eat too much, it may contribute to a gag reflex. Don’t worry if they do have some difficulty with gagging, it will frequently decrease as they grow older.
Stay calm if your child is not cooperating:
- We are familiar with situations where children do not cooperate at first. Allow us to try to break things down into small steps and help where needed. Sometimes it is beneficial to be a silent observer so we can take control of the appointment. But the occasional encouragement from you can also be helpful.
- If you are worried you won’t handle watching your child have the dental work done, sometimes grandparents can be great helpers.
- If your child is unable to handle the anxiety, there are always other options and people to see that specialize in these situations.