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How to Help Kids Ace Their Dental Exams This Back-to-School Season

When most kids think of summer vacation, they think of staying up late, sleeping in and endless hours of outdoor play. What they probably aren’t thinking much about - but you should be thinking about - are exams. No, not math tests and chemistry finals, but dental exams! The end of summer is a great time to schedule your child’s annual or semi-annual dental exam and cleaning. In fact, a recent study by Delta Dental found that 31 percent of school-aged children have missed at least one full day of school to deal with a dental problem.

Whether your kids have perfectly teeth or they’re complaining of pain or sensitivity, bringing them in for an end-of-summer exam can get their smile back in A+ shape before the new school year begins.

If your child is afraid of the dentist ... 

Don’t bait-and-switch your child into thinking they’re going somewhere else and arrive at the dentist instead. This not only gives them no time to mentally prepare for their appointment, but it also sets them up for disappointment and can make it harder for them to cooperate during their exam. Instead, try discussing up front that they are heading to the dentist and offering a treat like a trip to the zoo or mini-golf afterward as an incentive.

If your child needs dental work ...

You may already know your child will need teeth pulled or cavities filled. This can be scary for patients of any age, but kids often lack the ability to understand why they need these procedures. If your child is not yet old enough to understand their procedure, try explaining it to them in as simple terms as possible without going into detail. This will give your kids a general idea of what to expect without scaring them with technical details.

If your child has dental anxiety ...

For some kids, even a simple cleaning can illicit panic and fear. In many cases, these children are eventually able to relax once they’re settled in the dental chair, but for others these feelings only intensify. For those children in the latter category, there are many proven solutions to help them relax and tolerate their cleaning or procedure.

  • Sedation. If your child has high anxiety about seeing the dentist, we are happy to provide a prescription for an oral sedative to be taken prior to your child’s appointment. Factoring your child’s height, weight and age, an oral sedative will allow your child to sleep comfortably while we complete their procedure, and your child will wake with little or no memory of their visit.
  • Nitrous Oxide. A very popular option for adults, nitrous oxide also works well for children with dental anxiety. To be a good candidate for nitrous oxide, your child should be willing and able to cooperate with wearing a breathing mask. Nitrous oxide provides just enough relaxation to make your child feel calm and comfortable without losing consciousness, but may not be a good option for children who will not wear a mask or who may not otherwise agree to have their teeth examined if they are awake.

Honesty is the best policy ...

Remember, we want your child to have a beautiful, healthy smile for a lifetime. This means that caring for their teeth must begin at an early age. The best way to help your kids understand the importance of good oral health is by modeling healthy oral health habits at home. Let your kids see you brush and floss your teeth. If they are under the age of 10, supervise them when they brush their teeth to make sure they are brushing properly. Brush the teeth of children under the age of 6 if they are unable to properly brush their own teeth. Remind your child that by properly cleaning their teeth each morning, they are more likely to have an easy, painless dental exam each time they visit the dentist.

As your child’s dental appointment gets closer, let them know that they will be seeing the dentist soon. Remind them again about what will happen during their exam, and reassure them that you will be there with them the whole time.

Ready to book your back-to-school checkup? Give Dr. Abelar’s office a call at 858-866-9692 and set up your appointment today!

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