You’re Taking Me to See WHO?
By Alan H. Golden, D.D.S., P.C.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend every child find a dental “home” by age one. That might sound silly, but there are many reasons, among them providing guidance to caregivers, dietary counseling and demonstrating proper dental care techniques. Our own experience tells us that earlier first dental visits lower the rate of dental both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American problems throughout childhood. The other reason getting little ones used to going to the dentist. Parents might be concerned how their child will behave, but there is no need to be. The first dental visit is a new and unique experience: a new environment with new people.
It’s normal for a young child to attempt to avoid new experiences, so it’s important for a parent not to overreact if children act out at their first dental visit—stay cool. This first visit is about building a caring and cooperative relationship between the dentist, the staff and your child. Since nothing traumatic or painful is taking place, your child learns to trust the dentist and office environment. An overly reactive parent is “admitting” that the child’s fears are justified. Additionally, it’s important not to mislead a child about the visit, or use words that will frighten them. Parents may find that a pediatric dental specialist is the best choice, prepared to cope with the complete range of behaviors children may exhibit.
Some dentists allow a parent to be present during dental treatment. In our experience, after age one, most children will behave much better when the parent is out of sight. The parent is their child’s best audience, so a child will often act out if a parent is present, making the parent assume the child is afraid and needs to be rescued. If this behavior is reinforced, further visits can result in failure. With the parent absent, the child’s attention is focused on the people at hand—dentist and staff. Children learn that the dentist isn’t someone to be feared. Only then can they gain the confidence and trust needed to become an enthusiastic participant in their own care.
Dr. Golden has been practicing dentistry for 36 years and opened the first of four offices in Prince William County in 1979. He is currently on the medical staff of five area hospitals as well as a teacher of pediatric dentistry at three distinguished institutions.