The Parent Guide to Child Dental Visits: From Cleanings to Check-Up- Know More Than Your Dentist and Ease Anxiety

Visiting the right pediatric dentist got my children’s health in order. We had information and a plan to end sleepless nights, behavioral issues, rounds of antibiotics and medications.

We are in an incredible time in healthcare. Science and clinical evidence are finally connecting some sleep, breathing, behavioral, and developmental health issues oral development. How do you get the proper screening your child deserves?

Airway Focused Practices

Understanding the importance of proper oral development for an optimally wide airway is essential. The tongue is the blueprint for the optimal development of the oral cavity. In proper resting posture the tongue sits up against the roof of the mouth and it guides the growth of the maxilla and development of the face.

While there are many dentists throughout the United States, there are few that are airway focused and trained in the etiology of narrow oral cavities. This knowledge is critical in getting your child care that encompasses their overall wellness and goes well beyond the presence of cavities or not.

Know What To Look For

An airway focused pediatric or general dentist will ask a more detailed medical history than expected. They need to understand any known birth, breastfeeding, developmental, sleep, oral habit, and dental history. As they progress through this complete medical history they get a picture of any further screening needed for treatment or referral.

Induction, birth traumas, and difficulty latching for breastfeeding can be indications for tethered oral tissues, mouth-breathing, and poor oral development. Developmental delays and behavioral problems can be indicators for certain dental appliances and possible sleep study referral. Oral habits, grinding, snoring, mouth breathing at night are indicators of possible sleep study referral, cavities, and a potential need for early orthodontic intervention.

Have a thorough knowledge of your child’s full medical history prior to going to your appointment. Observe mouth posture, sleep, and eating habits. The more you can fill in the blanks, the more accurate your dental provider can be with their suggested treatment and referrals.

When You Have Suspicions

If you suspect that your child may be tongue-tied, have cavities, or an airway centered disorder, do not give them too much information. When parents come in nervous for their children, that anxiety is not only felt by the child, it feeds into their mood. Most pediatric offices are full of staff trained to show, tell and do. Relax and be honest with your child, without giving too much information.

The show, tell, do technique is taught in dental schools that requires all steps in the dental visit are shown to the child and verbally told before they are done. Dental hygienists are typically very engaging with young anxious children and can ease fears by explaining the cleaning.┬áThe “scary” instruments, dental chair, x-ray machine, and dentist are all discussed in a special lighthearted way using age-appropriate wording and analogies where necessary. In most cases, it is confusing to the child to have their parent explain something one way and the dental staff explains it differently.

This includes any treatment that is determined by the doctor. Should your child have cavities, need a tongue tie release, or is referred to be seen by a specialist, do not discuss the treatment needs in front of the child. Allow the child to play in a waiting room or common area while you discuss any concerns you have and get all your questions answered. The best way to translate a need for treatment usually involves phrasing such as:

“Your teeth are sick and we will return for medicine”

“This doctor thinks you’re special and would like to see your tongue and/or teeth again for a special visit.”

“You were chosen to see another special doctor”

Identifying The Right Dentist

When it comes to rectifying prior negative experiences, the right dentist is important. Not all pediatric offices are created equal. You can call the office and request an after-hours appointment with the dentist to consult with them about your prior experiences and how you want future visits to go. While you may not get a long meeting with the doctor, you will get to speak with them and get a “feel” for the office.

Also, call the office and find out if they are airway focused and if they commonly see patients that have similar issues as your child. The front desk should be familiar with how the doctor treatment plans common cases. They may be able to give you a heads up about what you can expect for treatment recommendations.

When it doesn’t feel right, let them know you appreciate their time and carry on. You will never regret traveling to get your child the best care.