No matter our age, none of us are at our best in an unfamiliar situation. Add in lots of shiny, scary-looking machines and metal tools, strangers with gloves and masks on, and a child’s limited vocabulary and experience, and you have kids dental visits from their perspective.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that the first dental visit for your child is scheduled around their first birthday and certainly as soon as they get their first tooth. That may be sooner than you thought necessary, but early visits can set the stage for a good relationship with dentists for the rest of their lives.
This article will provide great tips for preparing for your child’s dental visit. If parents take the time to lay this solid foundation, it will be worth it for the first visit as well as all those to follow!
Pro Tips For Your Child’s Dental Visits
Here are some valuable tips for kid’s dental visits to help prepare them as much as possible and help the visits go smoothly:
Start Dental Visits Early!
As stated earlier, the first visit should happen either when they get their first tooth or around their first birthday. To assure parents, please understand that this visit will be short and primarily to share information and introduce your child to the experience of being in a dentist’s office. They will be introduced to the team and the dentist as well as a dental chair and instruments, according to their age and what they can understand.
The dentist will provide information to you about issues like thumb-sucking, pacifier use, and an oral health routine at home. They will make sure any erupted teeth are growing correctly and are cavity-free. By the time your child is two or three, these dental visits will be routine and free of fear. For everyone involved!
Be A Good Role Model
Are you stressed out about your own dental visits? Keep in mind that you are your child’s most influential role model. How you speak about the dentist and how you appear before your visits will teach your child a lot, even if you think they aren’t listening or watching you.
Try to set your fears aside so you don’t pass them along to your child. Speak about the dentist in a positive way even if you are leaving the house for a root canal that you’re certainly not looking forward to!
Do your best to appear relaxed and stress-free for your own dental procedures and certainly when you take your child to their appointments. As hard as that may be for you, remember the importance of your position as their role model. You don’t want them to catch your fear!
Read Books About The Dentist Or Watch Videos With Your Child
As part of the preparation for your child’s first visit to the dentist, read books about going to the dentist with your child. Since they probably aren’t reading themselves yet, be selective about what books or parts of the book you read to them. Skip over parts about getting fillings or pain.
Start out with learning how the characters in the book have a good time at their dentist and that nothing bad happens to them in the dental office or chair.
Here are some wonderful books to use:
- Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer
- What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist by Laura Rader
- Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig) by Scholastic
- Curious George Visits the Dentist by H.A. Rey
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Check out YouTube for similar videos that deal with fears kids have about the dentist and what is going to happen there, especially for their first visit.
Roleplay as a Dentist
Kids love to pretend, so use that to prepare your child for going to the dentist. Act out what will happen as they arrive at the dentist’s office, then sitting in a chair with a very bright light, and opening their mouth for the dentist or technician.
You can pretend to be the dentist and then switch roles and let them be the dentist. They can use a favorite stuffed animal or doll–or you!–as the patient.
Listen carefully to what they say during this activity. Are they using fear-based words? If so, you can gently reframe those words into something less threatening. Your goal is for them to have relaxed body language, facial expressions, and language. None of us like the unknown, so role-playing helps redirect the imagination from fear to comfort before the activity begins.
Explain in Age-Appropriate Language & Be Careful of Your Word Choices
A few days before going to the dentist, chat about it but make sure you don’t go into too much detail. If you have been reading books and watching videos already, mention those to them and tell them in words they understand that it’s almost time for their own dentist visit.
Don’t over-explain but tell them what to expect and answer their questions. Avoid words like afraid, shot, or pain. Remind them a few times, depending on your child’s need for that. It’s best not to surprise them; that creates mistrust.
If this visit involves a dental procedure, such as a filling, get input from the dentist about what words to use to describe the procedure. The dentist will do it, too, once you arrive. Dentists who work with children are trained to talk about their procedures in a non-threatening, child-friendly way.
Schedule Appointments According to Your Child’s Routine
When making your child’s dental appointments, schedule the appointment for when they are most rested and at times when they aren’t hungry or over-stimulated. After having a good night’s sleep and eating breakfast may be best for your child, but not right after a playdate when they are hungry, excited, or tired. After naptime and a small snack may also be a good time, but not right after school with no snack or rest time.
We Offer a Fear-Free Dental Environment That Will Help Things Go Smoothly for Your Child
A child’s experience with a dentist should begin early, either by their first birthday or when their first tooth erupts. This will lay the foundation for a positive lifelong relationship with a dentist and the overall care of their teeth. Parents can follow some of the tips presented in this article to pave the way for their child’s positive introduction to the dentist.
Here at Wilmington Dental Associates, we look forward to working with you and your children. Our team is highly trained and experienced to deal with the dental (including pediatric dentistry), orthodontic, and cosmetic needs of all ages. Contact us today to begin your child’s road to good oral health!