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For every child, their first dentist visit can be a frightening and stressful experience. For those with Down syndrome it can be even worse, and something their parents dread. It doesn’t have to be that way though, and with a little preparation can be a positive experience for all involved. As a dentist for the past 17 years I’ve worked with all manners of children, and worked to make their first visit successful. Today, we’ll look at taking your child with Down syndrome to the dentist for the first time, and what you can do to help make sure it is as painless as possible.
Involve Your Dentist
To start, you know your child better than anyone else and are uniquely equipped to anticipate what might be distressing to them. As you go through the items below keep your child in mind, and think about how they might react. It’s also important to talk to your dentist, and voice any concerns you might have. They are sure to want your child to have a positive experience, and will rely on your insight to help them do so. Keep them informed about how your child might react, and help them to create a positive environment for your child’s first visit.
Meeting New People At The Office
The first thing to keep in mind when going to the dentist for the first time is the wide range of new people your child will meet. This obviously includes the dentist, but also the hygienist, receptionist, other employees, and even other patients in the waiting areas. This can be a lot at once, so be prepared for this.
If your child is one that doesn’t do well meeting too many people at once it might be a good idea to setup some time before to meet the key players. This is often referred to as a familiarization appointment, and can help your child meet some of the people before the actual appointment. This can potentially make it easier when the appointment day does come.
Sights and Sounds - Sensory Issues
Another potential issue for children with Down syndrome is the large amount of new sights and sounds they might experience. The dentist office is filled with lights, drills, and cleaning equipment, all of which can be difficult.
The important thing here is to anticipate what might be an issue. While bright lights might be an issue for some children, it won’t be for others. As a parent, think about your child and what sorts of things at the dentist office might be stressful for them.
Once you have an idea of potentially problem areas you can take steps to fix them. Wearing a pair of sunglasses might help with the lights, while headphones might work if loud sounds are the issue. Bring your concerns and ideas to the dentist, and they’ll be sure to help implement them effectively and safely.
It might also be a good idea to go over the process of the dental visit with your child at home. This can give them an overview of what to expect, and take away some of the apprehension of going in not knowing what is going to happen. It’s also a good idea here to use video or picture supplements to really help show off the process. This can play a big part in helping your child get comfortable with their first visit.
Future Dental Appointments
Even at your first appointment it’s important to think about the future and working to make each visit better than the last. Dental care is a lifelong habit after all, and you’ll likely be visiting the dentist every 6 months or so with your child. This is important as Down syndrome has been linked to certain dental issues.
Taking some time to reflect on what went well and what didn’t is always a good idea. It’s impossible to plan for every little thing that might happen on a particular visit, so don’t try to. Instead, reflect on issues that did arise, and endeavor to improve upon them on your next visit.
It’s also a good idea to try to work with the same dentist and staff on each visit. This can help your child get more familiar with them, which in the end can help them be more comfortable each time. The dentist will also likely learn more about your child, and be able to work to avoid potential issues on each visit. It really is a team effort, and the longer you work with the same team the easier it gets.
Overall, the first visit can be very stressful, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Good dental health habits are something every child should learn, and dental visits are a big part of that. As with everything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Stick with it, and you’ll help your child lead a healthier life.
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