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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

There is an unfortunate stereotype that visiting the dentist is frightening for children. While some children are shy about new experiences, the first trip to the dentist can be fun and rewarding.

Even more importantly, that visit can set the stage for healthy habits for the rest of his life. Good hygiene habits can keep him from cavities and gum disease later on.

Children can visit the dentist as soon as their first teeth arrive. This may be a good idea if you suspect any problems. However, most children can wait until they are two or three years old when they are able to be part of the process.

Before the Visit
Establishing a routine of dental hygiene before visiting the dentist is crucial. Your child will be much more likely to allow the dentist to clean his teeth if he is used to your brushing and flossing his teeth at home. Make this a fun experience instead of one he dreads.

The next step is to acquaint your child with the dentist before he actually has to go for his own visit. Take him along when you go and introduce him to the staff. Your dentist should be willing to take a few moments to talk with your child, give him a “ride” in the chair or “count” his teeth. These things will help your child to be familiar and comfortable with the dentist and his office when he returns.

During the Visit
When your child arrives at the dentist, be excited about his visit. Talk positively about your own experiences with the dentist. Make him feel as if going to the dentist is something a “big kid” does.

Avoid any unnecessary and invasive procedures which may frighten your child or cause him to have an unfavorable opinion. In general, x-rays should be reserved for a later visit as they can be uncomfortable for a child’s sensitive mouth.

After the Visit
When the dentist gives your child his own toothbrush and toothpaste, make your child feel special to have his own hygiene tools. Encourage him to use them whenever you use yours to continue healthy habits. Continue being positive about his experience. He will easily pick up on your attitude.

If you follow these tips, there is no need for your child to feel frightened at his first dental visit. He will be well on his way to a lifetime of oral health.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want kids to have positive dental experiences.