Dance Your Way To The Dentist

I’ve been a hygienist here at Evans Dental Group now for 5 years, and being a General Practice, we see a variety of patients from the young to the young at heart. I enjoy the different relationships that this brings, and especially enjoy introducing our youngest clients to the dental world for their first time. It can perhaps be the most important visit to the dentist they’ll ever have, since it sets the tone for how the dentist is perceived for the rest of their life. Think about it… do you remember your first visit? Or is it something you wish you could forget? Were you going for a checkup, or were you going because you or your parent thought something was wrong? How did that shape how you felt every visit after that?

Well, I don’t remember bit by bit what happened my first visit, but what I do remember is friendly faces, a dentist and hygienist that made me laugh, and getting to pick something out of a treasure box because I was a good girl. I have enjoyed the dentist ever since. No, I wasn’t particularly crazy about the polishing (it tickled!), and the fluoride was sooo strong, but that was okay because my overall experience was a pleasant one. Perhaps I owe a lot of credit to my mom as well. She made sure to teach myself and my siblings at home a regular home care regimen, and enforced it, even when we put up a fight. My mom would take us every six months and tried to tell us ahead of time about our appointment (usually a day or two before). This went a long way. Whether she realized it or not, she was instilling value in us for our oral health, just by helping to create healthy habits in a positive environment at home.

I wish that every child had a similar dental experience as I did, but sadly this isn’t the case. Did you know it’s been estimated that up to 80% of adults deal with some form of dental fear or anxiety? Unfortunately, in many of the cases I’ve encountered, the anxiety began as a young child and in some, way before they were born. I know that sounds a little puzzling, but it’s true. You see, your child’s dental experience actually begins with you. Did you know that our children watch everything we do? From the actual things we say, to our body language, to even what we don’t like or want to do? Have you ever noticed that many of the things that bother or scare us actually scare our children as well? Like giant roaches, snakes, or the sight of blood? Well, they do! Even the slightest uneasiness about a dental appointment speaks volumes to them.

If you’re one of those that suffer from dental anxiety yourself, or you have a child that suffers, then dental appointments can be daunting to say the least. I’ve put together a list of some tips to help make the most of your child’s dental appointment-whether it’s their first or tenth. Who knows? Maybe you’ll even pick up a few tips for yourself!

Dance your way to the dentist!
Okay maybe you don’t really have to dance, but be enthusiastic! Talk about how clean everything will feel they’re done, how comfy our chair is, or the “ride” that they can go on in the chair. You know your child and what gets them excited, so be creative.

Be honest about where you’re going.
If they feel like they can’t trust you, then they’re not likely to trust us when we tell them how careful we’ll be.

Help them relax.
Let them bring their favorite stuffed animal, doll, toy… well, you get the picture. If music helps put them at ease, then let them bring their mp3 player and head phones. Don’t forget our very own personal television in every operatory, specifically for their viewing and listening pleasure.

Lead by example.
Let them come with you to one of your hygiene visits. Bring someone they trust to sit with them and keep them entertained. This is also a great opportunity to introduce them to some of our equipment. Once they see that you have survived they’ll be more willing to give it a try themselves.

If at all possible, don’t let their first visit be due to a suspected issue or pain. Be proactive.
If something is in fact wrong, then their first impression is going to be affected by the fact that they have to have extra work done. Give them the opportunity to have a fun first impression and to be proud of their smile.

Monitor how other siblings, family members, or friends discuss their own dental visits.
We all know how others can be-especially older siblings. Be sure to debunk any myths or stories that may scare them, and try to prevent them in the future.

Be consistent.
If taking care of their mouth is all they can remember doing, then they’re more likely to continue it throughout their lifetime as well. You’re preparing them for their future! The American Dental Association recommends dental hygiene cleanings every six months to help prevent dental problems, as well as to detect issues when they are small. Did you know that many cavities can be prevented just through regular dental exams and cleanings? Our professional fluoride treatments can actually penetrate the softened, pre-cavity tooth structure and reverse the damage if caught early enough. How cool is that?

Even if you suffer from dental anxiety yourself-don’t let them know! Help break the cycle of anxiety in your family by providing a positive atmosphere for your child and giving them the opportunity to formulate their own opinion and experience.

By taking the time to work on these points and setting an example, you are empowering your child to take care of themselves and giving them the tools to take charge of their smile. If you ask me, that is definitely worth dancing your way to the dentist. We’ll even provide the music!

Brittni Ridgeway R.D.H