Making visits to the dentist a positive experience for kids
Sponsored by Hawaii Dental Service
It’s summer, and with many children out of school, it’s a good time to schedule a dental visit before the hectic back-to-school rush. A check-up helps parents and children identify tooth decay or other oral health conditions early, which helps to keep students in class during the school year.
Dr. Gavin Uchida is a pediatric dentist and administrator of the HDS Foundation and says a dental check-up is just as important as a physical. “Poor oral health can impact children in other areas of their development,” he explains. “There can be poor speech articulation, a reluctance to smile, and low-self esteem if tooth decay is left untreated.” The sooner a dentist can detect a problem and offer solutions, the better off children will be.
The role of a dentist is to serve as a coach for better health. A visit may involve a thorough check-up of a child’s teeth and gums, x-rays, cleaning or the application of sealants to help avoid tooth decay. If a dentist finds cavities, it’s important to take care of the problem and provide instruction on proper flossing and brushing to avoid cavities in the future.
Parents also play a critical role in shaping their children’s perceptions of a dentist. If mom or dad talks about a negative experience they may have had, this creates unnecessary anxiety and fear in a child. It’s also important that parents never use a dentist visit as a threat or punishment for a child who does not floss and brush regularly. Setting a positive tone for a dentist visit is the best way to help ensure children have a good experience.
As children get older, they become more vulnerable to a number of oral health problems. If teens participate in sports, they should wear protective mouth guards to protect their teeth. They should also understand the adverse impact of smoking and vaping, chewing tobacco, consuming sugary drinks, and other activities that can do great damage to teeth and gums.
If a child doesn’t have a dentist, the best way to find one in Hawaii is through word of mouth. Find out who other parents are comfortable with and consider making an appointment for your child with that dentist. The HDS website also allows you to find a dentist by geographical location, name, or specialty.