A HUNGRY CHILD IS NOT A HAPPY PATIENT
It’s also generally a good idea not to feed them in the waiting room before you see the dentist because there’s all that food in their mouth.
Eating light is also better for a child with a healthy gag reflex. Some children gag a lot just because they gag with everything. As they age and they get more control over swallowing, kids tend to gag less.
Bonus points if your child brushes before an appointment.
LEAVE YOUR ANXIETY AT THE DOOR
If your heart races at the very thought of the dentist, your child can probably tell. Kids pick up on parents’ anxiety,” Dr. Hayes says.
“It’s important with kids, especially at 4, 5 and 6, because I believe the phobic adults are the ones who had bad experiences when they were that age.”
The younger your kids are, the more you need to be aware of how you’re communicating with them. For example, if your child asks about getting a cavity filled, don’t say, “It will only hurt for a little bit.” Instead, encourage your child to ask the dentist.
“With any child, you want them to be able to feel successful at accomplishing a good visit and link that positive feeling with the idea that their teeth are strong and healthy so they have that message going forward for the rest of their lives.”
KEEP COOL IF YOUR CHILD WON’T COOPERATE
If your child gets upset during her visit, the worst thing you can do is swoop them out of the chair and leave.
“The next visit is going to be harder,” Dr. Hayes says. “You still have to help them get through part of the visit.”
First, assess why your child is acting out. Are they truly afraid, or are they trying to test the situation?
“One of the reasons I think a 4, 5 or 6-year-old gets upset is because they think they’re going to be asked to do something they can’t be successful at,” she says. “They’re in an environment they feel they can’t control and that makes them upset, so we try to break it down into small steps.”
TAKE A CARD (OR THREE) ON YOUR WAY OUT
Accidents can happen whether your child is in sports camp, gym class or just walking down the street.
In case of emergency, make sure your child’s teachers and coaches have all the medical contact information they need – including your dentist’s number. Grab business cards for your wallet, your child’s backpack and your school’s files.
“Parents should be very aware of accidents and make sure that wherever they go that they bring the number of their dentist so that if a child has an accident, they can certainly call the office,” Dr. Hayes says.