MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The thought of a dentist’s chair is enough to make many grownups break out in a sweat. Now, imagine being a toddler facing the bright lights, noisy tools and a masked stranger. But there are ways to make it all less scary.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Rebekah Wallerstedt has her tooth-brushing routine all figured out. But when the time came for her first dental checkup, her mother tried to make that experience go smoothly too.
“We made it sound like a big fun, exciting event, that you’re going to go to the dentist,” said Jessica Wallerstedt.
Pediatric Dentist Dr. Teresa Fong suggested children’s books and videos about visiting the dentist, in advance of the big event, to take some of the mystery out of the process.
She said allowing little ones to tag along to see older siblings in the dentist chair can help too. Even bringing a favorite toy or a blanket is encouraged to make children feel calmer.
At Rebekah’s appointment, the experienced dental hygienist talked about every piece of equipment as she explained what she was about to do.
“I’ll show you what it feels like on your finger,” she said, as she made the rubber tip on the tooth-cleaning tool spin. “Does that tickle?”
Jessica was impressed with the patience the staff demonstrated to her daughter.
“They’re not shoving things in their mouths without making sure they know what’s going on,” she said. “They take time to be patient with the kids and make sure that they feel comfortable. That’s something that I know I never had when I was growing up.”
Even though babies may not have many teeth, it is actually recommended that children make their first visit to the dentist by age one. That allows the doctor to check for any abnormalities in the mouth. They can also demonstrate to parents proper brushing and hygiene techniques.
And, no matter how it goes on that first trip, Fong said be encouraging.
“Let them know it was great that they got in the chair … that they let the dentist look at their teeth,” she said.
A couple more tips: Fong said begin a daily brushing routine with a soft toothbrush and water when a baby’s first tooth arrives. Also, do not put children to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, which can allow sugars to remain in contact with the tooth enamel and cause early decay.
The Minnesota Dental Association will offer free care to thousands of kids the first weekend in February.
Find information about Give Kids a Smile at the link below.
Minnesota Dental Association: Give Kids A Smile
WCCO-TV’s Dennis Douda Reports