Visits to the dentist may not be a favourite part of everyone's personal healthcare routine. However, children can find dental appointments particularly disconcerting. There is an unfamiliar big chair that tips back, a bright light in their eyes and a strange new person too. So what can parents do to ease the situation and make family visits to the dentist a success?
Firstly, your local family dental services may be able to offer a paediatric dentist. These child-friendly specialists are ideally placed to help overcome that sense of trepidation. If possible, try to pop in a few days before the first appointment to make friends with the receptionist or nurse.
Secondly, at playtime, pretending to be the family dentist can be a fun activity and a great way to dispel fears. You could make time for an interesting variation of the time-honoured doctors and nurses' game. Why not set up an imaginary dentist's chair before you take turns to open wide and count teeth? It's also good to give the child a well-done sticker as a reward for the simulated visit, when appropriate!
On the day of the actual appointment, take a favourite stuffed toy along with you both, as a comfort. A pair of cool-looking sunglasses adds fun and informality, as well as eye protection. Wearing them will also help to distract him or her from that unfamiliar glaring light.
Of course, parents can help by being a good role model. Check-ups for all the family together will contribute to building your child's confidence. Arranging joint appointments at afamily dental services practice means your child will see how you like to have your teeth looked after, too. You could also talk about how nice your teeth feel when the dentist has looked after them, how great it is to have a healthy mouth and how important white teeth are.
As well as the favourite 'Did you brush your teeth?' question, you may want to encourage child autonomy. Options include a bathroom tick chart, a funky children's toothbrush and a choice of flavoured toothpaste such as sugar-free strawberry or melon.
Finally, there is nothing like regular visits to the dentist or the hygienist to help build up a young patient's confidence. Clearly, six-monthly routine check-ups are better than the alternative of making dental appointments only if or when something hurts. The latter approach usually involves undesirable urgency, stress or discomfort and is best avoided.