Every February more than 40,000 dentists and volunteers across the nation participate in Give Kids A Smile Day, an American Dental Association (ADA) program that provides dental services to underserved children. Dentists and other industry professionals volunteer their time and services to give approximately 450,000 kids screenings, treatments and education.
Although the official date is the first Friday in February, Give Kids A Smile events can be scheduled throughout the year. To take advantage of this program or volunteer your services, visit the ADA website.
Even if you’re not taking part in this event, we have another way you can help kids smile: Teach them to love the dentist. Get your child started on the right foot by making a dentist appointment before he or she turns 1 year old (or six months after the first tooth erupts). This first visit serves as an “icebreaker” to help the dentist become a familiar face to your child. It also helps you and your child understand what happens at pediatric dental appointments. The dentist can provide guidance on age-appropriate oral hygiene, nutrition, baby bottle and pacifier use, teething, normal growth and development, and other advice that can get your child on the way to a lifetime of good oral health.
Of course, it is important to find an office that meets your needs. Look for an office that is parent and child friendly and welcomes your child at an early age. Some dentists specialize in pediatric dentistry. If yours does not, ask to see how familiar and comfortable they are with seeing toddlers.
There are steps you can take to help an older child who is reluctant to go to dental appointments as well. First, be positive and calm in talking about the visit. Let your child know that the dentist likes to help children feel comfortable and keep their teeth strong and healthy. Leave the details of the visit to the dentist and his or her staff. Be sure to inform the dentist that your child feels anxious about the appointment. The dentist can help him or her feel more at ease with procedures by explaining what will take place, even if it’s something as simple as, “We’re going to clean your teeth today by using these tools.”
Finally, don’t forget to praise your child for a job well done! Behaving well at the dentist’s office should be rewarded with kind words and perhaps a small surprise, such as stickers or trinkets.