Combining dentistry and kids together can be tricky. For us, the child's first visit to the dentist is extremely important ... the first visit should be a positive one for the child regardless of the child's dental condition and any dental problems that may need to be addressed in the future.
If the first visit to the dentist is a positive experience, we can build upon that foundation to influence good habits and dental health.
It is very easy for a child to become fearful of the dentist, and once this fear takes hold, it can impact a child into adulthood and cause dental avoidance. So it important to us to cater to our children patients and make the first dental visit a good one.
With children, the emphasis is on home care and how well the child is maintaining his or her dentition. We always hope we can accomplish a routine preventive cleaning and examination, but with young children - we move at whatever pace the child is comfortable with.
The brunt of the child's cleaning appointment is discussion of home care, and review of oral hygiene instructions. Kids need to learn the right way to brush and floss and it takes time and repetition. So every dental appointment for a child will include time dedicated toward re-enforcing proper oral hygiene technique. Most of the time, the actual cleaning for a child will involve simple plaque removal, which is accomplished with very slight scraping, or even polishing. Some children that accumulate plaque more readily may even need a bit of scraping to get tartar (calculus) off the teeth.
Portland water fluoridation was a big issue not long ago. Since Portland water is not fluoridated, we discuss the benefits of fluoride for children (taken in pill form) and write prescriptions for interested parents. Northeast Family Dental advocates for fluoride being given to children because numerous studies and data demonstrate its ability to reduce the incidence of dental decay in treated teeth.
A huge discussion factor is how the permanent dentition is coming in and how the upper and lower teeth align. Orthodontics can play a big role in guiding development of the jaws and face.
So regular dental visits allow the dentist to screen children and identify when an early visit to the orthodontist may be beneficial.
Many times, the first visit to an orthodontist is much earlier than you would expect. It may be a simple meet and greet visit, but the orthodontist may also recognize potential problems early and give the best advice about when to begin orthodontic care.
Another thing to speak with the dentist about is the "active" child.
Dentists can tell you that trauma in childhood or adolescence is the cause for many adults who have had dental work on front teeth such as crowns, bridges, root canals or implants. I know from speaking with these many adults that one accident playing sports has altered the dentition for these adults permanently. Front crowns are notorious for being difficult to match shades or cover the margin at the gum line.
For children to have an accident that leads to an early crown on a front tooth, it is unfortunate and sometimes avoidable. Granted, accidents do happen when least expected, but a simple mouthguard properly fitted by a dentist can prevent accidents that may lead to tooth fracture or tooth loss.
If your child is very active with sports, it is a worthwhile discussion to have with your dentist.
I have noticed word choice and body language with children makes a huge difference. Children are influenced by what we say prior to, and also during dental visits.
I have found that avoiding certain impact words can make a big difference in the experience for children. On the list of red flag words I would include: pain, needle, drill, pull, shot, hurt (even avoid using hurt in the context 'it won't hurt.')
We try to make analogies with most dental activites so that the child will not be scared of the word.
A filling or having a tooth pulled can be traumatic for a child regardless of word choice, but it is easier for the treatment to be rendered if the child is not fearful in anticipation of the procedure.
Naturally, the sounds, vibrations, and pressures felt during these visits can be uncomfortable for the child, so a reassuring voice is helpful, but the key is keeping everything as positive up to those uncomfortable moments as possible so that the child does not combat attempts to render needed treatment.
We use a lot of 'show' 'tell' 'do' to give the child a sense for what to expect. A lot of dental fear is more a fear of the unknown when it comes to children. Other fear children can have stems from what friends or family tell them about the dentist. Being mindful of this and using positive language can have a huge impact on your child's view of the dentist.