A child’s very first dental visit is an important milestone that can make or break their perception of dentists. After all, more than 60% of adults suffer from dental fear and for most people, it was an unpleasant dental experience early in their life that created that fear.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be the same way for your child. There are several things you can do to help prepare them for their first time sitting in a dentist’s chair and show them that a dental office isn’t a scary place. In fact, they can actually enjoy their visits, especially if they know what to expect.
Here are some tips on how to make your child’s first dental visit a positive experience.
If Possible, Start Taking Them Early
Ideally, a child should see a dentist for the first time by the time their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday—whichever comes sooner. Although this may seem early, it does help children get used to the sights, sounds, and sensations they can encounter in a dental office.
If your child is older they may feel apprehensive about their first appointment, but this also means you can communicate with them about what a dentist does and explain why it’s so important that everyone visits one regularly. You can also use teaching aids such as children’s books and videos about going to the dentist.
Find a Good Pediatric Dentist
While your own dentist may be good with children, the right Colleyville pediatric dentist can usually go above and beyond to make their smallest patients feel completely at ease. This not only means having in-office entertainment screens and decor that is pleasing to kids but training their staff to explain dental equipment and procedures to kids in a non-frightening way. Pediatric dentists also receive additional education and training to treat smaller mouths and perform dental sedation techniques.
Schedule a tour of the office and bring your child along. This will give them an opportunity to meet the dentist and the staff so their faces will look familiar at the actual appointment.
You’ll also want to let the dental office know that this appointment is your child’s very first one so that they’ll know exactly how to help them feel at ease.
Speak About the Dentist Only in a Positive Way
Your child will be less nervous about visiting the dentist if you talk about dental care in a positive light. Avoid using scary words or phrases like drilling, pulling teeth, or any mention of pain. Try to keep things simple. You can describe that the dentist puts a tooth “to sleep” using a special medicine before they fix it so that your child won’t feel anything.
If you ever had a bad experience in the dental chair, don’t let on to your child. Instead, explain how you were once scared, too, but then you discovered that going to the dentist turned out to be a pleasant experience.
Also, any older siblings can assist in this area by talking about their own dental visits with your child.
Take Them With You to Your Appointment
As children love to emulate their parents, you can set a good example for them by visiting the dentist regularly yourself. With your dentist’s permission, you may also want to take your child with you to your next appointment. This way they can see for themselves what a dental team does and how comfortable you feel while they clean or work on your teeth.
Teach Them About Dental Hygiene
Kids should also be aware of the importance of good at-home dental care. Explain to them why it’s important to keep their teeth clean and how they will benefit from having a healthy, shiny smile. Brush and floss their teeth daily and help them learn how to do it properly on their own when they become mature enough to take on the responsibility.
Again, fun books and videos about proper dental care aimed at kids will help reinforce the message and also help them feel good about visiting the dentist.
Role Play a Dental Visit
In addition to reading children’s books about visiting the dentist, you can your child can also play dentist. This will help them get used to holding their mouth open and having a dental tool in their mouth.
Have your child lay down on the sofa or bed, drape a napkin across their chest like a bib, and count and brush their teeth. Talk to them as a dental professional would. You can also purchase a dental mirror at the drugstore and use that to examine their mouth. Don’t forget to use positive reinforcement and tell them what a great patient they are!
You can also take turns and have your child examine and count your teeth as well.
Let Them Bring a Comfort Item
If it would help your child feel more relaxed, let them bring along a treasured stuffed animal, blanket, or toy that they can hold to comfort themselves during the appointment. Sometimes having a “friend” come along can help your child stay calm.
Praise Them and Offer Them a Reward
Praise your child after the appointment is over and let them know how proud you are of them. You can also offer them a special reward for being a good patient such as buying them a toy or taking them out to eat at their favorite restaurant.
A Great First Dental Visit Will Lead to Many More
Remember that an enjoyable first dental visit will help your child grow up to be a responsible adult who sees the dentist regularly and takes their oral care seriously. Following these tips should help make that first appointment painless—not just for your child but for you as well!
If you’re looking for a patient, caring, friendly dental team for your child, contact us. We know how to help our patients feel comfortable in the dental chair and we look forward to making your child’s smile shine!