Along with an annual physical, new clothes and backpacks, a visit to the dentist helps ensure that your child’s education and development won’t be interrupted by oral health problems. After all, dental disease is the most prevalent childhood disease! Back-to-school dental care can help prevent dental emergencies and missed valuable school days, while giving kids more confident smiles……all year long.
In a scientific study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, it was concluded that dental problems were significantly associated with reductions in school performance and psychosocial well-being. Children with undiagnosed dental problems and infections were more likely to have problems at school, miss school and were less likely to do all required homework. This was prevalent with children 14 years and younger, since this age group seldom complains to their parents about dental pain.
Dental malocclusion (crooked teeth) were also associated with shyness, unhappiness, feeling of worthlessness, and reduced friendliness. The effects of dental malocclusion were largest for adolescents between 15 and 17 years. The study concluded that preventing and treating dental problems and improving dental health may benefit a child’s academic achievement, cognitive and psychosocial development.
Here are some things that can be done to ensure your child’s teeth and gums are healthy and that they grow up to have a more positive and enjoyable experience with their dental home.
Healthy smiles start at home. Serve as a good role model by practicing good dental hygiene habits yourself. Make sure your children brush and floss daily. A diet light on sugary snacks and drinks and rich in raw fruits and vegetables goes a long way towards maintaining good oral and overall health.
Schedule routine dental exam and professional cleanings 2x/year with a Pediatric Dentist. Food and decay-causing plaque are easily trapped in between teeth and in the deep grooves of the chewing surfaces of teeth. Even if your child brushes and flosses well, it’s important that he/she has a professional cleaning to prevent cavities from forming in those hard-to-clean areas. A thorough dental exam can catch early decay, preventing pain, infections and more expensive procedures.
Best time to schedule a dental appointment with a Pediatric dentist
Time of day can make or break your child’s appointment. It’s important for a child of any age who’s used to a nap to not schedule during naptime. If your child is always cranky after waking up, factor that in too.
For older children, avoid cramming in a dentist appointment right after day camp or school. Not all kids have the energy to do that. I will have parents who want to do very elaborate operative (fillings) work after school because that’s when the kids can come out. But if the child has already been exhausted or had a bad day or had tests, they just may not have the stamina or positive energy to make it through the appointment successfully. For the convenience of our patients, we have Saturday hours.
Make One Child a Model
If you’ve scheduled back-to-back appointments for your children, there’s a simple way to decide who goes first: Choose the child who’s had the most positive experiences at the dentist. Every child is going to be a little bit different in their temperament about how they approach a visit. you generally want the ones first who are more successful because the others get to see how it goes.
Leave Your Anxiety at the Door
If your heart races at the very thought of the dentist, your child can probably tell. Kids pick up on parents’ anxiety. It’s important with kids, especially at 4, 5 and 6, because I believe the phobic adults are the ones who had bad experiences when they were that age. Today a child’s dental experience can actually be focused around being more fun and engaging.
The younger your kids are, the more you need to be aware of how you’re communicating with them. For example, if your child asks about getting a cavity filled, don’t say, “It will only hurt for a little bit.” Instead, encourage your child to ask the dentist. With any child, you want them to be able to feel successful at accomplishing a good visit and link that positive feeling with the idea that their teeth are strong and healthy so they have that message going forward for the rest of their lives.
Keep Cool If Your Child Won’t Cooperate
If your child gets upset during his/her visit, the worst thing you can do is swoop them out of the chair and leave. The next visit is going to be harder. You still have to help them get through another visit.
Allow the doctor to assess why your child is acting out. Are they truly afraid, or are they trying to test the situation? One of the reasons I think a 4, 5 or 6-year-old gets upset is because they think they’re going to be asked to do something they can’t be successful at. They’re in an environment they feel they can’t control and that makes them upset, so we try to break it down into small steps.
If your child’s dentist allows parents to be present during the visit, work as a team with your dentist to keep the visit going. Let the dentist lead the conversation and advise you when its most appropriate for you to help if needed, while still allowing the dentist and your child to build a good relationship. Give the dentist every opportunity to turn the visit around.
Take a Card (or Three) on Your Way Out. In fact, our office has magnets you can put on your refrigerator door
Accidents can happen whether your child is in sports camp, gym class or just walking down the street. In case of emergency, make sure your child’s teachers and coaches have all the medical contact information they need – including your dentist’s number. Grab business cards for your wallet, your child’s backpack and your school’s files. Parents should be very aware of accidents and make sure that wherever they go that they bring the number of their dentist so that if a child has an accident, they can certainly call the office. In fact, we treat dental related school accidents all the time.
Make sure your kids start their school year right. Give your local Pediatric dentist a call.
Dr. Darren Tong is a pediatric dentist who lives in Old Tappan with his wife, Dr. Mariliza Lacap and their 5 children. They are both graduates of Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery and are owners of Smile More Dentistry and Smile More Kidz. 140 Oak Tree Road, Tappan, NY. They can be reached at 845-359-1763. SmileMoreDentist.com