Even though you take your child to the dentist early -- it's best to go every six months starting at about a year old -- the dentist probably doesn't do much more than look at the teeth to make sure they are growing in well and look for obvious signs of trouble and decay. However, just like adults, children eventually need professional teeth cleaning. At around preschool age, your child should be able to sit for a basic cleaning.
Here's how you can prepare your child so the experience goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Stay on top of brushing and flossing
Teeth cleaning and dental exams are only very painful if the teeth have not been cared for properly. Children can have symptoms of decay and gum disease, and even with gentle scraping, their gums will bleed and get sore if their teeth have been neglected. Daily brushing is essential, and young children are not able to do it themselves very well. Parents should brush for a child until they are old enough (usually around the time they start Kindergarten) to get their teeth thoroughly clean by themselves.
2. Read books about going to the dentist
Normalize what will happen at the dentist by reading books about going to the dentist. When kids see other examples of dental work in their stories, they can see that going to the dentist is something that people do to keep their teeth healthy and strong.
3. Prepare in the days coming up to the appointment
Show your child the marked day on the calendar and say, "We're going to the dentist this week!" Since this will be their first cleaning, explain that even though you have gone to the dentist before, this time will be different. Explain what happens in a teeth cleaning. You might even watch a YouTube video showing a teeth cleaning. While you watch, explain what the hygienist is doing to make the person's teeth more healthy.
4. Take it slow
When you get to the appointment, have the dentist show your child each of the tools he will use when examining or cleaning the teeth. Some children might be surprised or scared by the vacuum that sucks out extra saliva if they don't see what it is or how it works beforehand.
For more ideas on preparing your child for the dentist, contact a local dental office near you. For more information, contact a business such as Carolina Forest Family Dentistry.