We brush, we floss, and we don’t have sugary drinks, but still my four-year old wound up needing two fillings.
After an initial consult with my regular dentist who confirmed the squishy bits I’d noticed while brushing were indeed cavities, we were referred to a paediatric dentist. I can’t say enough good things about how kind and patient the staff were. For a small child in a new, environment with people asking him to do strange things can be quite terrifying, but he actually wanted to go back for his follow up!
It took us two “happy visits” before they felt he was comfortable enough to have the cavities filled. All the warm-up we did paid off as he cooperated well and stayed calm throughout. But hindsight’s always 20/20, so there are still a few things I wish I’d known about how to help little kids at the dentist:
1) Practice “nose-breathing” – if your child is anything like mine, they tend to breathe through their mouths especially when they are concentrating or upset. This means that having a dentist or hygienist work on their mouths can be extra scary because it disrupts their breathing pattern. Had I though about this, I’d have practiced breathing through our noses a bit before our visit. And ifyour child needs more dental work than just cleaning, nose-breathing will help them stay under the sedation (usually very low-dose laughing gas) for long enough to get that cavity filled.
2) Open wide … without saying “aaahh!” – initially, it’s easier to say “aahh!” when brushing, but the dentist told me doing this for prolonged periods of time means small kids will continuously breathe out and can get low on oxygen (!). It’s also more difficult to keep them calm if they are sedated because they blow out the gas and air.
3) Earphones – Like many dental offices, ours used that fantastic tool — distraction — to keep kids calm. They play movies on tvs mounted to the ceiling with earphones for sound. Though some children are used to the earphones, mine only use them occasionally. Having them practice using them — especially whilst lying down — simulates the position in the dentist’s chair. If I’d thought of it, I would have tried to habituate my little guy to this slightly awkward set-up.
4) Practice “drilling” – my son didn’t need freezing, but he did need enough drilling to feel the vibration keenly. Again, if I had though of it or if we have to do it again (a strong possibility given the crumbly nature of his teeth) I’d have bought an electric toothbrush to simulate the buzzing of the drill and get him used to that odd feeling.
5) A calm-down activity – the dentist’s office gives out little prizes to the children after their visit, but in the heady atmosphere of the surgery, this serves as a further source of excitement, not an opportunity to de-stress. After our visit, instead of returning home or to play school, we ended up doing an activity to calm down. This was all spur-of-the-moment because I needed a few items, but it served to help calm my little boy and give him something to think about other than the temporary discomfort in his mouth. If I had it to do again, I’d probably plan for a trip to the bookstore or library as a way to decompress without subjecting other grocery shoppers to a hyper four year old!
Have your kids needed to visit the dentist? What did you learn? What would you add to this list?
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