We understand how children can be scared or nervous when it comes to visiting the dentist for the first time. They are entering an unfamiliar environment that has new people, technology, and tools everywhere they turn.
And for kids that aren’t used to dental care, it can be intimidating and feel invasive to have their mouths examined.
That being said, it’s essential for your child to have positive first dental experiences. The first initial visits can establish the tone, for the attitude your child will have about dental care in the future, so you will want them to have a good start!
Preparing your child in advance for their first dental appointment is one of the best things you can do to make it a positive non-threatening experience. 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.
Carefully select your words and don’t be too specific.
Avoid using words that may scare 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."
Be honest with your child if they ask follow-up questions but, continue keeping it as simple as possible, using mild language.
Don't share your own negative experiences and feelings.
Lots of adults are also nervous when it comes to visiting the dentist. While this is normal, you most likely 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 a pretend visit.
Play a game of pretend with your child before their first dentist appointment. You can be the dentist and they can be the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush.
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 them how the dentist might look at and check their 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.