Several Ways to Make Children Smile at the Dentist

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Visits to oral health professionals are strongly recommended within the first year of life, as proper brushing, flossing, nutritional habits, and tooth alignment are of extreme importance after the very first tooth has erupted. While children often become anxious at the prospect of visiting the dentist, their fears can be alleviated with gentle, positive reinforcement and a comfortable environment. Early positive associations with oral health care can mean the difference between frequent dental infections and teeth that are free from unnecessary decay and trauma throughout their lifetime. Here are several tips for promoting habits that will have a positive impact on your child’s oral health.

Positive Comments about the Dentist

Children often develop perceptions and associations, good and bad, based around what they hear from peers and family members about a particular experience. People that play an active role in a child’s life have the potential to influence their opinion of the dentist prior to their very first checkup. Negative associations with the dentist can be formed by hearing frightening feedback about personal encounters, causing a child to be more resistant to dental treatment. In contrast, positive comments about the dentist and feedback that reinforces the benefits of a check-up will often cause a child to visit their doctor in a manner that is calm, collected, and receptive to treatment. An open mind about the dentist will cause younger patients to be less fearful during checkups with their oral health professional. Speaking in a positive fashion can also benefit the child when they are to receive radiographic treatment.


Radiologic Treatment: Comparing X-rays to Everyday Objects

Radiographs are an important component of a check up following the eruption of the first tooth (in a normal set of primary teeth, this occurs around six months of age). Radiologic images help a dentist determine whether or not the primary dentition is erupting on time, and whether or not there is crowding of the teeth. While it is often difficult to obtain diagnostic radiographs on a child patient, helping them relate to the procedure and to interpret it as an act of play can increase the likelihood of success when taking dental radiographs. As a parent or caregiver, gentle, positive encouragement during a radiographic treatment, as well as comparing film to desirable objects (such as snacks or toys) and an x-ray tube head to something less intimidating (like a camera) can decrease a child’s anxiety when radiographs need to be taken.


Early Exposure to Home Care

After the first tooth has erupted, it should be treated as well as a full set of teeth. This means brushing twice a day, as well as using dental floss to remove bacteria from the spaces where the teeth will come in contact. When a child is young, it may be unrealistic to expect them to practice home care by themselves, and such practices should be executed by parents. As they mature, parents can play an active role in helping them learn how to brush and floss independently. Many styles of toothbrushes, as well as flavored floss, can increase the likelihood that a child will form healthy home care habits.


Early Prevention of Cavities

Caregivers can help young children to reduce the risk of early childhood cavities by limiting their exposure to beverages that contain sugar, such as juice and milk, prior to bedtime. Until a child is able to practice brushing and flossing on their own, cleaning their teeth in a timely fashion will also reduce the amount of cavity-producing bacteria in the mouth. A reduced amount of dental caries (cavities) and other complications can make an appointment with the dentist, overall, a more positive experience. This can, in turn, can help younger patients to develop a positive perception of going to the dentist.


For more information on children’s smiles, contact Dr. Postol, your Ballwin, MO dentist at St. Louis Dentistry today.

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