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6 Tricks for a Tantrum-Free Visit to the Dentist!
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  • Whereas parents religiously follow the schedule of their child's well-baby checkup with the pediatrician, visits to the dentist are often overlooked. In fact, some parents are guilty of only bringing their kids to the dentist when there's already a problem. According to Dr. Nina Tayag-Atotubo, a member of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society, parents should bring their child to the dentist for the first visit before he turns a year old or as soon as the first tooth erupts.

    “Do not bring them when there is already a problem or if there is already pain because they will associate going to the dentist with something painful,” she advises.

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    Yet we know the struggle of bringing a child to the dentist: How do you pacify him when he cries? How do you make him sit still in the dentist's chair? Heck, how do you even convince him to go near that chair?  

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    Because February is Philippine Dental Health Month, we wanted to know what parents can expect when they bring their kids to the dentist for the first time. SmartParenting.com.ph sought the help of Dr. Angelica Rae M. Villaseñor, pediatric dentist at BrightSmile Avenue Dental Clinic in Taguig, and currently taking a Master's degree in Science in Pediatric Dentistry at Mahidol University in Thailand. 

    "The attention span of children ages 1 to 3 is very short, so I make it a point that the first dental visit will be quick, [no more than] 30minutes," says Dr. Villasenor. She says the first session is usually for examining the child's teeth for cavities, prophylaxis, and fluoride application.

    The first visit is also a time to educate the parents about starting good habits with their child. "I talk to the parents about oral hygiene, diet, and the importance of regular dental visits, aside from treatment needs," she adds.

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    How to let your kids know the dentist is their friend

    The following tricks could be effective in getting kids more comfortable inside the dentist's clinic:

    1. Do storytelling.

    Dr. Villasenor says a light discussion is a good jumping-off point. "We involve the kids by telling them what dentists do during an appointment through videos and props. But mostly we use the tell-show-do method — we introduce to them the [dental] instruments using terms like 'Mr. Straw' for the suction; the dental chair, which we call the airplane, and then we make a story out of it. We want to take out the notion that going to the dentist is scary, and it helps them relax."

    2. Give kids access to the dental chair.

    Seeing that the chair can go higher or lower, recline, or the different tools arranged next to it may just convince your child that there is nothing to fear about sitting there (at the very least, it may offer some distraction). "We let the children try and play with our dental chair to see how it works, and reorient themselves," says Dr. Villasenor.

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    3. Try the knee-to-knee position

    Sometimes, kids cry because the environment is new to them. If a child is still being uncooperative, "I suggest the knee-to-knee position where the lower body of the child is on the lap of mother while the head is on the lap of the dentist. This position allows the child to still see the mother while I check their teeth," she explains.

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    "Dental visits with kids is not just about treating cavities. We want to educate their parents as well so that together, we may be able to shape their child’s behavior into accepting the dental environment — not only brushing their teeth but also other dental procedures that are necessary and vital in the future," Dr. Villasenor adds.

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    Smart Parenting also asked parents what they did to prepare their kids for trips to the dentist, and how they ensure these are always a pleasant experience. Here are some of their brilliant ideas: 

    4. Play doctor-patient.

    "My husband TJ and I bring our kids Izzy, 6, and Maxi, 4 years old, to our dental trips. They sit on our laps before and after [procedures], and our family dentist puts the flash light in their mouths [to mimic a checkup]." — Em Matias-Sulit, mom of two

    5. Find a child-friendly dental clinic.

    "Our dentist has a box of toys that Lucas can play with before he goes inside the clinic. There's also a TV on the ceiling of our dentist's clinic, so he could watch while his teeth are being cleaned! At home, it was never a problem cleaning his teeth. Now that Lucas brushes his teeth on his own, we sing two rounds of ABCs so he knows how long to brush his teeth. We also found some YouTube videos of kids and animals brushing helpful because now he thinks it's 'cool' to brush his teeth." — Elaine Reyes, mom to Lucas, 3 years old

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    6. Praise your child's efforts in front of the dentist.

    "Our dentist uses a device with a camera that allows our daughter Donut to see inside her mouth. This helps her become aware of what is happening while she is being treated. It helps that the dentist explains every step, too. My husband Mike and I stay beside Donut to reassure her that all is well, and she is a brave little girl. I also let the dentist know that Donut never fails to brush her teeth, making sure that my daughter knows we are proud of her." — Anna Angela Agero, mom to Donut, 4 years old 

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