The dentist's office is a new environment with new people and unfamiliar technology to most children during their first visit. It's understandable that they might be a little apprehensive about their first dental exam or cleaning.
And for children who aren’t accustomed to dental care, having their mouths examined may feel intimidating and invasive.
With this in mind, it is key to make sure your child's first visit to the dentist's office is positive so they have a good association with the dentist going forward. 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.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
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.
Play down your own negative feelings and experiences.
Many adults feel nervous about visiting the dentist as well. It’s quite normal, but you probably don’t want to pass those feelings on to your children!
When you talk about your dental experiences and feelings with your child, try to keep your language mild and positive.
Try doing a pretend visit!
You can play pretend dentist with your child prior to their first visit to make it feel more like a game than a chore. All you need is a tooth brush!
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.