Who wants to go to the dentist? Me! Said almost no kid ever… almost. If you are comfortable with the dentist and your child sees that, they may just copy that behavior. My five-year-old still gets a little nervous to go to the dentist, however we focus on the “treasure” he will get when the cleaning is over and the cool games he gets to play while he waits.
As a parent, what can you do to prepare yourself and your child for that anticipated visit? Get informed! Asking the right questions beforehand and already having that knowledge can help you feel more confident. Pediatric dentist Dr. Fagan, a member of the Oklahoma Dental Association, offers some helpful tips and advice to get you and your child ready for your visit and a lifetime of healthy teeth.
What do you do when your child is so anxious with a dentist? (One of our staffer’s children must be sedated to go to the dentist!)
Pediatric dentists can offer a variety of approaches that are customizable to the unique needs of that child. And yes, sometimes that involves sedation for extremely anxious children. The best way to avoid this situation is early and regular dental visits to prevent problems from occurring. If a child visits a dentist when their mouth is comfortable, they are more likely to have a fun and successful visit.
The issue of children being accompanied by parents during dental visits has been a recent debate in dentists' offices and online. Should I come back with my child when he or she is the patient or should I let my child go through the visit alone?
Some dentists prefer that parents be with their children during the appointment as a way to ensure parent education about good dental health. Others may encourage the child to go back for treatment on their own. This way, the dentist and team can focus solely on the child, work directly with the child and build a positive relationship with the child right away. The child will be able to focus all their attention on interacting and listening to the dentist and assistants and not have to divide their attention between the parent and the dental team. Other offices allow parents to make the decision. They are welcome to relax in the reception area or join their child. What’s important is for you to find a dentist whose approach matches your preferences.
What's up with Benzocaine?
Use of topical anesthetics, including over-the-counter teething gels, to relieve teething discomfort should be avoided due to potential toxicity of these products in infants. The Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) recommends not using benzocaine-containing numbing products on children younger than 2 years of age.
Also, the FDA warns not to use and dispose of homeopathic teething tablets after lab testing found “inconsistent amounts of belladonna, a toxic substance, in certain homeopathic teething tablets, sometimes far exceeding the amount claimed on the label.”
Belladonna may cause seizures, difficulty breathing, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating or agitation in children.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend parents and caregivers soothe teething children by massaging their gums or giving them firm rubber teething rings that are not frozen to chew on. In addition, if your child is eating solid foods, feed them cool, soft foods such as applesauce or yogurt.
Also, what's up with teething necklaces? What do you recommend?
According to the FDA warning, children should not use teething necklaces or jewelry because they can lead to choking or strangulation. The FDA has received reports of children choking on beads that have broken off these necklaces and an 18-month-old infant was strangled to death by an amber necklace during a nap.
What do you do in a dental emergency after hours or on the weekend?
If you have already established a relationship with a dental office, call them. Otherwise, look for dental offices that have evening hours and/or are open on Saturdays. Most dentists are compassionate and are willing to help in emergencies. This would be a great question to ask your dentist prior to an emergency, to find out the proper procedures for his/her office.
How early should a child be evaluated for orthodontics?
It’s never too early to have a dental evaluation for your child if you suspect that they have a bite problem or crowding issues. For some orthodontic issues, early treatment may prevent more extensive treatment later. With that being said, parents are encouraged to find and establish a dental home for their child or children before there is a dental problem. Choosing a dentist for your child is too important a decision to do in a hurry or an emergency situation. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that the first dental visit should occur no later than the child’s first birthday.
Looking for a dentist for your family? Find an ODA Dentist here.
About Dr. Fagan:
Dr. Tim Fagan is a board certified pediatric dentist and is head of the Pediatric Dentistry Division at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry in Oklahoma City. For over 30 years he has had a pediatric dentistry practice in Enid, Oklahoma and he is a Past President of the Oklahoma Dental Association (ODA).