Going to the dentist can be scary even for adults. So when it’s time to bring your child to their first dental appointment, use the following tips to make the experience as anxiety-free as possible.
Do Bring Your Baby to the Dentist Sooner Rather Than Later
You don’t have to wait for all of your baby’s primary teeth to erupt before heading to the dentist. According to the American Dental Association, your child’s first trip to the dentist should actually take place within six months after the first tooth appears, or before their first birthday. Yep, that soon.
After that, regular exams of the primary teeth will help ensure your child’s mouth will remain healthy. This gentle and consistent exposure to the dentist, particularly during a time when no invasive treatments are required, will help your child become acquainted with the experience so there can be less fear. The dentist will become a friend, not a foe, thanks to this early exposure.
Don’t Have a Negative Attitude
Kids are really good at picking up on the energy and feelings of their parents, so if you’re anxious about your child’s first visit with the dentist, it’s possible that your son or daughter will become nervous too.
Try to be happy and relaxed, and talk about how the experience will be a positive one. Discuss the simple steps that the dentist will take to make sure your child’s mouth is clean and healthy.
Do Choose a Dentist Who Specializes in Working with Kids
A dentist who has plenty of experience working with kids will be a great choice, as they’ll know how to keep a child calm and comfortable, and they will also provide a clean, secure, and friendly environment that won’t intimidate your son or daughter. Plus, if your little one does become upset at all during the exam, a dentist with this expertise will know how to work with you to calm your child down in no time.
Don’t Just Pick Any Old Appointment Time
Avoid scheduling your child’s first dental appointment during a time of day when they would normally be napping, or when they are typically difficult to work with. You know your child best, so book the appointment for a time of day when they will be cooperative, rested, well fed, and ready for an adventure.
Do Spend Time Prepping
Diving into discussions about the dentist with your child is a fantastic way to get them ready for their first appointment. You can talk about how much you enjoy going to the dentist and having a beautiful smile to show off as a result. Getting other people involved, such as your spouse or your older children, can also help to reinforce that going to the dentist can be a positive experience.
Taking the mystery out of the dental exam will help your kid feel confident and comfortable too. You can pick up some children’s books or watch kid-friendly videos online with your child to teach them all about the dentist. And you can even have a pretend dental visit at home to show your son or daughter how the dentist will examine the mouth in a way that won’t be scary or painful.
The key is to present the experience as something that’s worth looking forward to, rather than dreading. The last thing you want to do is create unnecessary panic by talking about how frightening and painful going to the dentist can be. Avoid using words like “pain,” “hurt,” or even “shot.” This certainly isn’t the time to share your own “war stories” of root canals and extractions either.
Don’t Use the Visit as a Punishment
Teaching your child about the dentist, and getting them used to going to the dentist on a regular basis, will help create a solid foundation for their future oral health. So it isn’t a good idea to use the trip to the dentist as a punishment, nor is it a good idea to bribe your child or give a reward for enduring the exam. Instead, use praise and encouragement, and let your child know how proud and impressed you are with their behavior.
Your dentist will teach your kid a lot about dental care, but take steps at home to reinforce good oral hygiene practices. With the right dental plan for kids and the appropriate home care, you can help boost the odds that your child will avoid a variety of dental and gum problems. And every time your youngster laughs, they’ll show off that lovely smile that you can’t get enough of.