I’ll be the first to admit my fear of the dentist. It came from a long run of bad luck, bad experiences, and, well, general fear of anything drilling in my mouth. After becoming a parent, I try my hardest to keep my personal experiences from impacting my child, but there are certainly times where I can’t help it. Enter: the dentist. My daughter’s first trip to the dentist went ridiculously well – one that affirmed her concept of the dentist (and changed my opinion) in the process. I know that I’m not the only one who has struggled with dental health and dentist visits – so I wanted to sit down with our partners over at The Smile Shop to see what they had to say about getting your child prepared for the dentist.
Question: When should your child first go to the dentist?
Answer: We suggest by the age of 1 that your child visit a pediatric dentist. This visit is primarily used to discuss hygiene, diet, and to establish rapport with your dentist. It also helps in the case of a future emergency. Should your child fall, injure their teeth, or you have another pressing question, you have someone to call. During these visits, your child will sit “lap-to-lap”, which means that their body is in the parent’s lap, while their head rests comfortably with the dentist or dental hygienist.
Question: What’s the timeline of dentist “happenings” after their first visit?
Answer: After your first appointment, you should come in to see the dentist every six months. We’ll continue to sit down for dental hygiene discussions, which focus on brushing habits and diet. We’ll also start to examine your child’s teeth by brushing and looking. As they progress, their visits will get more in depth – it really depends on the child. If they child isn’t emotionally ready, the dentist will help them become more comfortable by talking to the parents, and only doing what the child is ready for. The dentist should make a positive experience while also decreasing anxiety for child and parent.
Question: How do you get your child ready for the dentist?
Answer: Getting your child ready for the dentist begins at home. It means talking about going to the dentist, getting them excited about dental hygiene and health by telling stories and bringing them into the process. Try to avoid expressing your own anxiety about going to the dentist, and instead focus on how fun the dentist can be, the prizes, stickers, games and movies they will get to explore while they are there.
Question: What should a parent look for in a pediatric dentist?
Answer: It’s all about comfort. If you feel comfortable, your child will feel comfortable. If you feel that office doesn’t jive with your family, your preferences, your philosophy, find a different office that fits your lifestyle. Look for a dentist that comes highly recommended from your family and friends. Look for an office that can accommodate your family – one that focuses heavily on education, diet, general hygiene, and involvement from the parents and child in regards to dental hygiene. I’d also make sure that your dentist is certified with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry – this means that dentist has a specialty in providing dental education and hygiene for younger patients. Additionally, a dentist may become Board Certified, which means they’ve gone the extra step to get certified in Pediatric specialty.
A little about who I interviewed:
Dr. Whitney Garol attended Galena High School, then the University of Nevada, Reno where she graduated with distinction, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in biology and a minor in psychology. Dr. Garol graduated magna cum laude with a doctor of dental medicine degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine. Always having a passion for treating children, she decided to further her training with a pediatric dental residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. At one of the premier children’s hospitals in the nation, she received extensive training to provide excellent dental care to infants, children and adolescents. She is a board candidate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and active member of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.