Experts Say Start Dental Appointments for Kids Early

shutterstock_146378675If you have a child, keeping their teeth clean and healthy needs to be a priority. One of the best ways you can ensure a lifetime of good oral health is with early dental visits. If you are preparing to visit the dentist for the first time with your little one, here are some tips to make the trip go as smoothly as possible.

When to Go

Scheduling that first dental appointment is often the first question new parents have. When should they take the child to the dentist? The answer will vary significantly depending on whom you ask. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry now recommends that you have an established dental home by the time your child is one year old. This helps limit the chances that your child will have dental problems, and will help teach you, as the parent, how to properly care for your baby's brand new teeth. If you do not go when your child is a baby, aim to have that first visit by about age three. Regardless of the age, schedule the visit during a time when your child is normally awake, well fed and alert.

Prepping for the First Visit

If your child is a baby, you won't need to do any preparation for the first visit. If your child is toddler or preschooler, and you are visiting the dentist for the first time or for the first time in a while, you may want to schedule a "get acquainted" visit to show your child what to expect. If the two of you will be seeing the same dentist, have your child come to your checkup, or simply ask if you can see the dental office before the appointment. Before you go, read books with your child about visiting the dentist. Have him or her watch a few videos of kids at the dentist. Knowing what to expect will help make the visit much less frightening. On the day of the visit, have your child choose a special toy or blanket to bring along to the dentist. Stay with your child during the visit, but avoid the urge to hover. The dentist and dental staff will be adept at helping nervous children feel comfortable, and hovering will only make things worse for both of you. Throughout the visit, give your child some control. Often, children panic at the dentist not because it hurts or is scary, but because they don't know what to expect and cannot control the visit. Ask, "Will you hold your toy, or should I keep it?" or, "What flavor of toothpaste do you want?"

Should You Offer a Reward?

Should you offer your child a reward for bravery at the dentist? The answer depends on whether or not your child is old enough to understand or want the reward, and if your child is showing extreme anxiety. Children who are scared may benefit from a reward, but most children can tackle their first dental visit without one. At Natural Horizons Wellness Centers, our dental team loves children. We are ready to make your child’s first experience at the dentist a pleasant one. With our holistic approach to dentistry, your child's oral health will be well protected throughout his or her lifetime.

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