Two weeks ago saw Claire Stevens, Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at the University Dental Hospital of Manchester, take her place on the One Show sofa. Claire gave dental care tips to Jonathan Ross, and warned of the dangers of Coca Cola and Rice Crispies. But Claire’s overall message was clear: children need to receive top quality dental care in their early years to set them up for a lifetime of great oral health. Forming a trusting relationship with their dentist, and getting into a habit of routine visits early on is a crucial part of this. When should you think about making that first trip, and how should you prepare your child?
It is recommended that children are first taken to the dentist when their milk teeth start to come through. This helps to get the child used to going to the dentist: to the feelings, sounds and smells that make up the visit. If you leave it too late, or until your child needs more serious dental work, then it can be more difficult and stressful for your child.
The key to a happy child in the dentist’s chair is preparation. At Ock Street we’re keen to work with you as part of your preparations: feel free to bring your child along with you when you have your check up, they’re welcome to try out the chair and meet their dentist. In addition, there are many books and films available that feature trips to the dentist, and explain why they are important. Try reading a few books to your child and inviting them to ask questions. You could even try a play session with cuddly toys visiting the dentist and having their mouths examined! If your child finds it uncomfortable when you brush their teeth, it’s a good idea to help them get used to their teeth and mouths being touched: you could role play a dentist visit as part of their normal teeth brushing.
Positivity is also crucial. No matter how much the sound of the dentist’s drill might fill you with dread, your child must not know about this. Children pick up on these things, and without realising it, you could be fuelling the development of a phobia. When talking about the dentist, your language needs to be entirely positive. If you’re concerned that you’ll show your nerves the minute you reach that waiting room, why not arrange for your partner to attend with your child instead?
Lastly, have a think about how you can make the dentist trip fun. Are there any games you can bring to play in the waiting room? Or can you plan a reward or incentive for them afterwards to encourage good behaviour? Perhaps a milkshake or trip to the park?
At Ock Street we are passionate about working with children in a way which prepares them for an adult life with a positive attitude towards dental health. An early, positive introduction to the dentist is a key part of this journey. Follow the simple steps detailed above, and we can ensure our future generations live up to the expectations set on the One Show couch.