Toothaches and Toothbrushes
By Denise Morrison Yearian
Jane and Drew love going to the dentist. They think it is fun. Perhaps it’s words like ‘tickle toothbrush’ and ‘sugar bug remover’ that make these preschoolers giggle. Maybe it’s the mini-movie theater or downtown Disney decorations that draw them in.
“I think they like going because I started them early and chose someone who knows how to work with children,” said Suzanne Tamassia, whose own childhood dental fears drove her to find a dentist who works specifically with children.
“Getting children in at an early age is key,” said one local pediatric dentist. “It is good to take them when the first tooth erupts. It gives the dentist a chance to get a good look at the child’s mouth and opens the opportunity to share oral health care and nutrition information with the parents.”
Jennifer Luzader, pediatric dental hygienist, agrees. “We recommend children have their first dental exam by their first birthday, and their first dental cleaning by age two.”
Even before that first appointment, there are things parents can do to prepare their child for their visit. Luzader recommends using books, videos and to role-play at home. She suggests parents talk with their child using positive words and remind them of how important it is to take care of his teeth and eat the right kinds of foods.
“I remember sitting at home role-playing with Jane,” recalls Tamassia. “I would say, ‘Open your mouth and let me see your teeth,’ then I would pretend to be the dentist. She liked that.” Role-playing helped prepare Jane for that first visit, because when she went she knew just what to expect.
“When a child comes in, we try to make it a fun experience,” said Luzader. “They get to pick out things like fluoride flavor, sunglasses for eye protection and a new toothbrush and floss. Then we go through each step of what we are going to do, first on their fingers then in their mouths. We count their teeth, scale those that are covered with plaque and tartar and then polish.”
It is important for parents to keep any fears they have of visiting the dentist to themselves. If you have not been to the dentist in years, keep that information confidential or your child may start asking a lot of ‘but why’s’. Parents should choose a dentist who will give you the tools you need to teach your children preventative dentistry. It will pay off for years to come.
With preparing your child, you might be able to reach the goal of having your child enjoy the first, second, third—whatever visit it is. “Because if he does, he’ll want to return again and again,” said Luzader.