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Oral Health Buzz

Dentistry for Kids: Focus on Fun, Not Fear

Wendy J. Woudstra

A visit to the dentist can be a frightening time for kids. From hearing stories of tooth extractions and fillings on the playground, to mirroring their parent's own anxieties, your child may become quite resistant to a visit to the dental office.

Avoiding dentistry for kids because of their fears, or yours, is not a good option. According to a report by the United States Surgeon General, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting children today. The impact of childhood oral disease is huge. Children in the United States lose more than 51 million school hours to dental-related absences. Getting past the fear and visiting the dentist regularly is important for the physical and social health of your child.

Find a Specialist in Dentistry for Kids

If you can find a pediatric dentist in your area, it is worthwhile to make an appointment for your child at this specialist. These specialized dentists have two extra years of training to deal with all the issues that can arise with your child's dentition. This makes them more reassuring to you as a parent, but a visit to a pediatric dentist's office will be a more comfortable experience for your child, as well. Everything from the waiting room to the exam room in a pediatric dentist's office is geared toward treating children and making them more comfortable.

Focus on the Positives

Don't wait until there are signs of a cavity before taking your child to the dentist for the first time. Begin regular dental checkups with your child early to catch any possible problems with your child's emerging teeth. Doing so will get your child become accustomed to visiting the dentist's office, making it as a positive place where they learn how to properly brush and floss and get their teeth shined up.

If you have waited until there is a possible issue, your visit to the dentist can still be focused on the positive aspects of the visit. Explain to your child that the tooth needs to be fixed, and that the dentist or dental hygienist will teach them how to keep their other teeth from having the same problem. The promise of a small reward after the appointment can also make them look toward the experience with anticipation rather than trepidation.

Never Use the Dentist as a Threat

It is easy to try to curb your child's sweet tooth or overcome their resistance to brushing or flossing with warnings like "The dentist will have to pull out all your teeth if you keep that up!" Using the dentist as a threat can only increase your child's anxiety about appointments, and that anxiety can follow them well into their adult lives, with major repercussions for their oral health.

Learn more about your child's first visit to the dentist at the Colgate Oral Health Resources.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

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