A few years ago, I realized that I was thinking about dental care all wrong. Instead of listening carefully to my dentist and making the necessary changes, I assumed that he was ultimately responsible for making sure that my teeth stayed healthy. Unfortunately, I developed a few serious cavities because I failed to properly brush and floss my teeth, and I knew that it was my fault. I decided to start taking notes at my dental checkups and carefully abiding by the dentist's orders. The difference was almost miraculous. This blog is all about working with your dentist to improve your result.
The American Dental Association suggests that a child visit the dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth and no later than their first birthday. Generally, this first visit is meant to be an educational visit for the parents and a way to get children comfortable visiting a dentist from a young age. While the first visit may not be a problem, you may find that as your toddler gets slightly older, they may become more willful and refuse to open their mouth to allow their dentist to check their teeth.
This can be a problem if your child is at high risk for early childhood decay or already shows signs of decay and needs regular monitoring by a professional. Below are a few tricks for training your child to open their mouth at home to make dental visits less of a power struggle and more fun for everyone involved.
Between 1-2 years of age, your child may resist grooming skills such as brushing their teeth and taking a bath. Establishing a routine for cleaning your child's teeth before they reach this age can help minimize resistance because tooth brushing will be part of their routine. Similarly, familiarizing your child with your family dentist before they develop anxiety about strangers can be helpful, so it is important to schedule your first visit at or before your child's first birthday.
Schedule a Few Micro-Visits With Your Dentist
A single appointment will probably not be enough to make your child comfortable with your dentist. You should talk to your dentist about scheduling a few micro-visits leading up to your child's examination. These can be brief, five-minute visits that allow your child to see the examination room and become familiar with the dental staff. Depending on your child, you may not need these visits or you may want to schedule a couple visits a week for a week or two before their exam.
Include Dental Education When Watching Television or Reading Books
Young children often learn by imitating, so you should give your child plenty of opportunities to see slightly older children opening their mouths for the dentist. If your child has an older sibling, you can role play with them. If you do not have an older child at home, you may want to introduce children's programming or books that focus on visits to the dentist.
Practice "Open" as a Request
Whenever you brush your child's teeth, you should practice asking them to open their mouth for you as opposed to forcing them to open their mouth or brushing their teeth when they are paying attention to something else. You can begin by saying "open" and opening your mouth wide. Eventually, they should start copying you and may even ask you to open your mouth. You can also pretend that you are the dentist and count your child's teeth with a toothbrush.
If they want, you should let them pretend that they are a dentist and count your teeth, as well. However, the bacteria that causes tooth decay can be spread from your mouth to your child's mouth, so make sure you thoroughly wash their hands after they touch your mouth.
Introduce Your Child to the Idea of "Opening" for their Dentist
Once your child is comfortable opening their mouth at your request, you should introduce the idea of opening their mouth for other people to look in. You may say, "Open for me," or, "Open for your teddy bear." This will normalize the idea of opening their mouth for their dentist and should help them overcome their shyness at the dental office.
A little bit of training on a daily basis can make early dental visits easier for you and your child's dentist and less stressful for your child. Hop over to this site for more info.