Parenting: First time at the dentist
June 2, 2011 (WPVI) -- I've written in this space before about the battle to get my child to brush his teeth. It rages on. Sometimes he's great at it, but most times it's a battle, especially in the morning.
The encounters usually end with us pinning his arms and legs and forcing a toothbrush into his screaming mouth. Not fun for anyone, especially when he lands a punch or kick. But we soldiered on, especially after I read advice online that the grim task had to be done.
So you can imagine how much I dread the first visit to the dentist, which I thought was supposed to happened as the boy hit two this summer. Turns out, I am wrong on a number of counts, starting with the fact that I am late to get my kid to the dentist.
I went to see Dr. George T. Lynch, who runs Cobblestone Kids, a pediatric practice in Bella Vista. His cheery office is totally geared towards little kids, with bright colors, sticks and balls for treats, and Toy Story playing over the dental chair.
Dr. Lynch advises you should start cleaning your infant's gums with a soft cloth starting three days after birth and get him into the dentist at his first birthday. "Dental cavities are the number one chronic disease in children in America, and a lot of it has to do with diet," he points out.
In fact, Dr. Lynch points out that most parents think they're in the clear by staying away from sugary fruit snacks. But kids drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of carbs---think puffs, crackers, teething biscuits---and those cause as much bacteria and damage as sweets. Kids can keep baby teeth up to 10 or 11, so it's important that teeth stay healthy and get a immediate care.
Now, how to find a dentist who is good with kids. Head to the websites aapd.org, the site for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Put in your zip code and you should be on your way. And it's also a good idea to cross check your choices at abpd.org, the site for the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, to make sure your dentist is board certified.
After that Dr. Lynch suggests you take a quick tour of the office before you actual visit, so you and your child have a chance to familiarize yourself with the place. When you come back, you child will probably get what's known as a "lap exam." I witnessed one for Joseph DeRosa, 20 months, who leaned back in mom Marcella's lap as Dr. Lynch counted and checked his teeth. Jo-Jo, as he's known, didn't like it and cried, but Dr. Lynch said that's okay.
"If we have a few tears, it's fine because this is something we're building. And the next time Joseph comes in to see me, we know, 'That's Dr. George again. I know what he's going to do. I know when we're all finished I'm going home with Mommy. I'm going to get lots of prizes and I'm done.' It's something that we're building into the perfect patient."
As the child gets older, you can expect a more through exam, including a cleaning, maybe even x-rays.
As for don't, Dr. Lynch says don't listen too closely to other people's negative stories. Try to stay as positive for yourself and your kid about the visit as you can.
And that advice also goes for brushing the teeth. Dr. Lynch said my methods were actually the worst. "You never want to force a toothbrush, because forcing is actually something that's perceived by the child as negative." Instead, try this:
It may seem like your kid will never get with the program. But you hit that moment, think about Jo-Jo's big sis. She's only three, but made it through her dental exam and cleaning without one tear and brushes like a champ. It will happen!
tamala edwards parenting reports, parenting, tamala edwards
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