Take trauma out of going to dentist
By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer
Whether it's your baby's first visit to the dentist or you have a toddler who dreads appointments, there are things you can do to help make those earliest dental checkups pleasant ones.
And it's important for parents to make sure early visits are positive experiences, said Dr. Lynn Fujimoto, a pediatric dentist in Pearl City.
"It's the foundation of their whole dental health," said Fujimoto, who is also president of the Hawai'i Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
Fujimoto and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry offer these suggestions for parents to help make their keiki's earliest visits go as smooth as possible:
• When should your child have his first visit? "First visit by first birthday" is what the academy recommends. Your child should visit a pediatric dentist when the first tooth comes in, usually between 6 months and 12 months of age. This visit will establish a dental home for your child. Early examination and preventive care will protect your child's smile now and in the future.
• Take advantage of early visits and really talk to your child's dentist. Ask him questions about proper dental care, fluoride needs, tooth decay from nursing or using a bottle, issues with prolonged thumb sucking, and other concerns.
• Find keiki books and DVDs about first dental visits, which could help prepare your young one or ease his fears of the unknown. "There are a lot of books available about going to the dentist," Fujimoto said.
• When scheduling an appointment, consider making it first thing in the morning, when your child is well-rested. Try to avoid scheduling an appointment during nap time.
• During the dental visit, it may help to have your child sit on your lap while you sit on the exam chair. This way, you could hold and reassure your child.
• Practice positive reinforcement. If during the appointment your child behaves well, use positive feedback — "Great job!" "Way to go!" — to reward the behavior and strengthen the recurrence of these behaviors.
• While some babies are "happy as clams" during dental visits, others may become upset, Fujimoto said. Expect your child to cry a bit, and if he does: "It's normal and it's fine," she said.