Visiting the dentist for the first time can be a frightening experience for children. After all, they’re going into a new environment with new people, and unfamiliar technology and tools are everywhere they look.
When children haven't had any experience with dental visits having their mouths examined may feel intimidating and invasive.
Having said this, it’s important that your child’s first dental experiences are positive. Those initial visits can set the tone for your child’s future attitude to dental care, so you'll want to get them off to a good start!
One of the best things you can do to make your children’s first dental appointments non-threatening and positive is to prepare them ahead of time. Sit down with your children when they’re feeling calm and relaxed, and have a chat with them about what to expect.
Here’s some advice about what you should – and shouldn’t – say.
Be thoughtful of the words you use.
Try to avoid words that might seem scary to your child. For example, "needle" or "drill" might be alarming. Instead, you could replace "needle" with "spray" or "spritz", or try "whistle brush" instead of drill.
Ultimately, your best bet is to keep it simple. You could just say:
"The dentist is going to count your teeth and make them nice and clean."
If your child asks follow-up questions, be honest, but continue to keep it as simple as you can, and use mild language.
Do not share your negative experiences.
It's normal for all people, adults and children alike to feel nervous about the dentist. In order to help your children feel confident when they are getting ready for their first dentist appointment, it is important to not share any negative experiences or fears that you have with them.
When you talk about your dental experiences and feelings with your child, try to keep your language mild and positive.
Do a practice dentist visit at home.
Prior to your child's first dentist appointment, you could act out a dentist visit in order to give your child an idea of what to expect at their appointment.
Count your little one's teeth by starting with the number one or the letter A. Avoid making drilling noises or lining up other "instruments." You can even hold up a mirror and show her how the dentist might look at and check her teeth.
Let your child role-play by using a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a stuffed animal or doll. The key is getting your child familiar with the routine so that they're more comfortable for the real visit.