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Get your child's dental health off to a great start!

Your child's first dental visit to our office will likely influence how she will feel about dentists and dental care for the rest of her life. A positive first visit can be the first step toward a lifetime of good dental habits. A negative dental visit can build fear and hesitancy, and result in her delaying or avoiding the dental care she may need as an adult. We suggest you plan her first visit soon after she gets her first tooth.

Your child's first trip to the Houston dentist

Just as it's important to start early with good hygiene habits, it's also important to get your child to a Houston dentist for checkups at an early age, preferably by his first birthday, but not later than his second. At this age, children may have problems resulting from thumb-sucking, teething, or baby bottle decay syndrome.

It's a good idea if your child knows what to expect before going to the Houston dentist for the first time. A picture book is a good way to introduce the experience. An excellent one to read to your child is Going to the Dentist by Fred Rogers.

Another good way to familiarize your child with the Houston dentist's office is to let him join either you or one of his siblings on a dental visit or two. That way, once it's his turn to be examined, the procedure will be predictable. And for young children, predictability means comfort!

The first dental visit should primarily be a fun "getting-to-know-you" session with the dentist. She should be calm, friendly and upbeat with your child, and should thoroughly examine his mouth, gums and teeth. She or her hygienist may also gently clean your child's teeth, and, in a child-friendly way, demonstrate the proper way to brush.

Be sure to bring your child's health records to this first dental visit. And be prepared to sit in the exam chair with your child on your lap, so he feels at ease. Dental visits should be a positive experience from the very beginning!

Source: The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Preparing for the dental visit

You can help make your child's first visit a positive one by following a few easy steps. Call ahead and discuss with us what will happen during the dental visit. Also, tell us in advance about any history or medical condition that might affect how she reacts. This can help us meet your child's unique needs and plan the best possible visit for her.

Here are a few more pre-visit tips:

  • Don't wait until your child needs dental care to plan the first dental visit. If she's frightened or in pain, it's difficult for us to gain her trust.
  • Even very young children are perceptive, and can pick up and react to any anxiety you might have about the upcoming visit.
  • Arrange for a morning appointment if possible, when most children are more positive and receptive.
  • Don't talk about specific procedures or instruments. These ideas may confuse or upset her; words like "drill," "injection," and "needle" are potentially very frightening to a child.
  • In addition, plan to arrive early if you possibly can. If you don't feel rushed, you'll feel more relaxed and less anxious yourself, and your child will feel the same way. This extra time will also let her gradually become familiar with our office and how it looks; young children often need to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of new places before they become confident about being there.

    Parents, Watch What You Say when Preparing Your Child for a Trip to the Houston dentist

    Pediatric dentists are well aware that the language used during a dental visit can either relax a child or propel her into panic mode. After all, how many kids you know would welcome hearing the words "shot" or "injection" when they're sitting in the dental chair?
    Fear of the unknown is a big reason why kids can be anxious or even frightened about an upcoming dental visit. To ensure that your child has a positive experience at the Houston dentist, it's important that you're sensitive about the words you use when you talk about dental visits. The goal is not to mislead the child, but to avoid the formation of any negative attitudes about dentistry.

It's also a good idea not to share with your child any negative experiences at the dentist that you may have had in the past. Remember, dentistry has evolved tremendously, thanks to new technologies and techniques; it's now possible to undergo complex dental treatment with no pain!

Use words that don't elicit a negative reaction

Greg Psaltis, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist in Olympia, Washington, uses the following terms to describe procedures and instruments used in the practice he shares with Kerry Tramontanas, D.D.S.:

Instead of: Shot, needle or injection
Say: Sleepy juice

Instead of: Drill
Say: Whistle

Instead of: Drill on your tooth
Say: Clean your tooth

Instead of: Gas or nitrous oxide
Say: Magic air

Instead of: Numb
Say: Sparkley

Instead of: Examination
Say: Count your teeth

Instead of: Pull or yank tooth
Say: Wiggle a tooth out

Instead of: Explorer
Say: Toothpick

Instead of: Rubber dam
Say: Raincoat

Instead of: Air abrasion
Say: Sand blower

Instead of: Tooth cleaning or scraping
Say: Tickle your teeth

Pre-visit preparation—less is more

How should you prepare your child for a dental visit? What should you tell her? "Simply say, 'We're going to the dentist,'" Psaltis said.
"When you're going to the zoo, you don't say, 'We are going to the zoo where the tigers have really sharp teeth!' You simply say 'We are going to the zoo!' The goal is to avoid labeling dental visits as something to be afraid of," he said.

"We ask that parents allow us to do the preparation for the procedure," he said.

"When I am doing an exam and find decay, I say to the child, 'While I was counting your teeth, I found out that you have 21 teeth and two sugar bugs. We need to fix the sugar bugs. Are you willing to help me next time like you did today?' The child at this point is typically very positive and agrees enthusiastically to 'help' at the next appointment. That is all the preparation that's necessary," Psaltis said.

Problems occur, he said, when parents start talking to their children about "the shot" or "drilling." And often, the concept of pain doesn't even enter the child's mind until the parent announces, "Don't worry; it won't hurt!"

"Parents may give the child information that is misleading or incorrect, so the child worries needlessly," he said. "It's very easy for well-meaning parents to transmit their own dental anxiety onto their child. Of course they don't intend to do this. It just happens. Kids are very perceptive," he said.

"The goal is to help the child form positive attitudes about dentistry that will stay with her throughout her life, making it much easier to maintain excellent oral health," Psaltis said.



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