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How to Prepare Your Child for His or Her First Filling

girl at dentist

You take your child to the dentist, hoping for a clean bill of oral health and admittance into the no cavity club. Following a cleaning by the hygienist, the dentist comes into the room to examine your child’s teeth. After a thorough examination, she looks up and says, “Your child has a small cavity.” You see your child’s eyes widen with fear and you wonder how you will prepare him for his first filling. Consider the following tips:

Maintain your composure. When a child is anxious about having a cavity filled, the last thing he needs is a parent who is also nervous. So, even if you do have some anxiety about your child’s upcoming appointment, stay calm and positive when discussing the matter with your child. Children feed off their parents’ emotions, so if you maintain an air of confidence, your child will likely feel more comfortable about his first filling. Additionally, be sure not to cavity-shame your child. While it’s fine to discuss improvements your child can make so that he can have better check-ups in the future, berating or guilt-tripping your child for having cavities is never effective.

Discuss your options. Whether or not your child will be sedated during the filling procedure is something you should discuss beforehand with your dentist. Often, nitrous oxide– commonly referred to as “laughing gas”– is used to help alleviate anxiety, reduce pain, and help children sit still. Oral sedatives are also sometimes used. However, many children don’t require sedation at all; they can sit still and tolerate the procedure with no problem. It largely depends on the individual child’s temperament, so make sure to develop a plan with your dentist prior to the procedure.

Talk openly and honestly. Your child will likely have several questions about his upcoming procedure. Answer the questions as openly and honestly as you can. Knowing what to expect in advance can help alleviate the anxiety your child might feel about his first filling. Tell him that he’ll sit in the dentist’s chair, that he might hear some weird sounds, and that the dentist will put part of his mouth to sleep so that he doesn’t feel any pain. Explain to him that his mouth might feel funny for a little while afterwards but that feeling will eventually wear off.

Watch your words. Drills, needles, and pain– oh my! Choose your words wisely when talking about dental fillings with your child. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be honest; it simply means that you should explain the procedure using kid-friendly terms. For example, instead of saying “needle”, you might speak of a little poke in the mouth. Many parents and dentists avoid the term “cavity” altogether, opting to refer to the decay as a “sugar spot” instead.

Share your experience. Cavities are one of the most common oral health ailments children and adults face. If you’ve had a cavity in the past, share your experiences with your child. Let your child know that, while they’re not exactly desirable, cavities are very common. Reassure him that filling cavities is routine for dentists and that he will be in very good, competent hands.

Pick a comfort item. On the day of the filling, you want your child to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Allow him to wear cozy, loose-fitting clothes. You might also consider allowing him to bring an item of comfort, such as a favorite stuffed animal or a small stress ball he can squeeze in his hand during the procedure.

Of course, avoiding cavities in the first place is ideal. To help your child establish good oral health habits early on, be sure to encourage brushing twice a day and flossing daily. Additionally, your child should visit the dentist for a cleaning and check-up every six months. For further information, contact us today.

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