You’ve been dreading your child’s first dentist visit. You know it’s important but you don’t want to face a meltdown in the waiting room. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry does recommend that you schedule the first dental visit for your child by their first birthday, preferably as soon as the first tooth erupts. It seems early, but it can determine a child’s oral development in the future. Yes, it’s that important!
From the child’s perspective, it will be an intimidating environment with lots of new people around them. As adults, we tend to forget how scary new situations like this are for little ones.
Here are some ways you can help prepare your child for their first dental visit.
Your Positive Attitude Will Set the Stage
Your first task is to develop a positive association with the idea of going to the dentist. Any time you talk about the dental office, a dental visit, or the dentist and staff themselves, first put aside any of your own negative feelings you may have about going to the dentist yourself. Don’t share any scary dentist stories with or around them. Talk about the upcoming appointment as a new, positive adventure.
(And don’t forget to tell your child about the dogs we have here at TLC Dental Center that are very good at helping to ease any anxiety!)
Bring the Experience to Your Child First
Bring up a Youtube video like Peppa Pig Goes to the Dentist or the book Chase’s Loose Tooth! (PAW Patrol) with the Whole PAW Patrol gang. Share them with your child and ask if they have questions. These types of things can help set the right tone for a trip to the dentist, presented in a kid-friendly way.
Here are some others to choose from:
- “Just Going to The Dentist” by Mercer Mayer
- “Going to the Dentist” Read-Aloud by Anne Civardi
- “Visiting the Dentist” from PBS Learning Media
- “Dentist’s Office Field Trip” from PBS Learning Media
Don’t forget to check out some of the great activities within these videos, too! They will help you strengthen the positive connection between your child and the dentist.
Play “Pretend” With Your Child About Going to the Dentist
Kids love to pretend so use this as a way of acting out their first dental visit. Remind them about what they saw or heard in the videos and books you shared with them.
Set up their room with a chair that becomes the dental chair where they will sit. Pretend that you are the dentist and tell them what you are going to do while they are there. Explain why oral health is so important, then have them play the role of the dentist while you sit in the chair. Give them a certificate when the “visit” is over and let them take it with them to the real visit so they can show the dentist.
The time you invest in this activity will pay off for everyone!
Tour the Office in Advance if Possible
Contact our office and ask about scheduling a time to bring your child in for a short tour. Your child will then know exactly what it looks like when they come for their first actual appointment. They will hear the sounds before being involved themselves and meet the dentist (and the dogs!) if possible. This will reduce their anxiety when it’s time for their first appointment.
Be Strategic About the Scheduling of Their First Dentist Visit
You know when your child is at their best during the day. Use that knowledge when you make their dental appointments. When are they usually in a good mood? Make sure they aren’t tired or hungry when they arrive. You want this first visit to be at a time when they are normally in a good frame of mind.
Allow Your Child to Bring a Special “Friend” With Them
This is something else we forget as adults: The importance of a special toy, doll, or stuffed animal to a child. These objects aren’t merely objects to kids. They take on special characteristics to your child and can comfort them in ways nothing else can.
Don’t shame them or cut this comfort off by insisting they leave that friend at home on this important day.
Don’t Give Your Child a Great Deal of Time to Think About Their Dentist Appointment
It’s a fine line to walk between giving them too much time–days, for example–to think about the appointment or springing it on them as they get in the car. As you prepare them in the morning for their entire day, remind them about the tour you took and the dogs they met. Use something like, “Remember when you met the cute dogs at the dentist office? Today is the day we go back and the dentist will count your teeth and make sure they are nice and shiny! After that, we’ll stop at the library and get some more books!”
If your child becomes anxious, assure them that it is normal to feel that way. Don’t get upset if they cry. Remember that this is completely new to them and crying may be the only way they have to deal with it in the moment. Assure them you will stay with them and watch out for them.
You Are the Key to the Success for Your Child’s First Dental Visit
Preparation and the willingness to smooth the way for your child as they visit the dentist for the first time will reap many benefits. Your child will be more comfortable and you will be less anxious. We at TLC Dental Center will help in whatever ways we can, too.
Try the method we’ve outlined above and let us know if you have questions or concerns. We appreciate you choosing us for this important start to your child’s oral health journey!
To schedule the first dental visit for your child, request an appointment today!