As any parent knows, new things can sometimes be scary for your child. Your child’s first dentist visit doesn’t have to be that way. In the best-case scenario, the dentist can be another person your child gets excited to go see.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child should have their first dentist visit no later than their first birthday, ideally as soon as their first tooth erupts. Starting regular dental visits early like this is critical to ensuring your child’s oral development is on track and their smile is healthy. It will also give your child the opportunity to get comfortable with the dentist and being in the office, making future visits no big deal.
So, when it’s time to start thinking about this step in your child’s life, there are some simple things you can do to help make that first visit to the dentist’s office a whole lot easier on them (and you). A little preparation before the scheduled visit can go a long way.
In this article, we’ve broken down how to prepare your child for their first dental visit and make it an experience they leave smiling from. Here are a few easy things you can do:
(Many of these things can also be done after their first visit to help reinforce a positive experience.)
Don’t Tell Your Child About Their Dentist Appointment Until the Day Of
One of the first things to understand when it comes to your child’s first dentist visit is to not tell them about the appointment days ahead of time. You don’t want to give their imagination too long of a period to cause a lot of anxiety about it. But, you also don’t want to spring it on them without warning and completely surprise them.
So, the best bet is to let them know about the dentist visit on the morning of the appointment. You can say something like “a nice tooth doctor will be counting your teeth.” Or explain to them that this tooth doctor will show them how to keep their smile healthy. If they are asking questions, answer them without going into too much detail and don’t use words like “hurt”, “drill”, etc.
Watch Videos or Read Books About Going to the Dentist With Your Child
One great thing that you can do leading up to the appointment is to watch videos or read books with your child that depict their favorite characters going to the dentist. When your child sees characters they know who are happy while at the dentist’s office, it can set a very positive tone.
There are a variety of great videos and books that can help your child understand what’s going to happen and it won’t be a new, scary situation. For example, there is the Youtube video Peppa Pig Goes to the Dentist or the book Chase’s Loose Tooth! (PAW Patrol) with the Whole PAW Patrol gang.
Roleplay With Your Child
Playing dentist with your child can be another very good way to get them ready for their first dental visit and familiarize them with the experience. So, get your child’s toothbrush out and have them sit in a chair. Tell them they’ve come into the dentist’s office for their checkup and pretend you are the dentist. Then, brush and count their teeth. Make sure to talk through what you are doing and explain why keeping your teeth healthy is so important. You can then swap roles or have your child play dentist on their favorite stuffed animal.
Strategically Schedule the Time of Their First Dentist Visit
This is a crucial tip that will further help keep tears and tantrums to a minimum. You want to schedule your child’s first dental visit for a time when they are typically in a good mood. This is often after a nap and a meal. Kids that are tired and/or hungry will usually be less tolerant of new situations and will not be as cooperative.
Try to Tour the Office in Advance
Once you’ve scheduled your child’s appointment, see if you may be able to bring them in for a brief tour of the office in advance. This can greatly help them get familiar with the sights and sounds without being directly involved, reducing anxiety when it’s time for their actual dental visit.
Bring a Familiar Friend
If your child has a favorite stuffed animal or toy, make sure to bring it along to the first dentist appointment also. Having this will help make your child feel even more safe and secure with something familiar.
Stay Positive and Use Positive Reinforcement
The whole goal is to try and develop a positive association with the dentist for your child. This positivity is two-fold: positivity on your part and positive reinforcement to them.
Studies have found that parents can pass their anxiety about the dentist onto their child. So, even if you don’t like the dentist, you can’t let that show in front of your child. You want to avoid talking about any bad dental experiences you may have had or visits you have coming up that you may not be looking forward to. When talking to your child, you want to present the dentist in positive terms. While you are at the dentist’s office, try to keep things upbeat, take deep breaths, and try to appear happy.
Also, if your child is starting to show some anxiousness about the dentist, tell them that it’s completely normal to feel that way and offer positive reinforcement. Praise them for being brave. If your child cries at the appointment, it’s completely ok and will get easier with every appointment. Continue to tell them how proud you are of them and emphasize the positive aspects of the appointment.
You Can Help Make the First Dental Visit for Your Child a Success
As you can see, when it comes to how to prepare your child for their first dental visit, the goal is to make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible. Preparation ahead of time can significantly help with this.
By using the tips we covered above, you can help them feel confident and excited to be at the dentist. If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our caring team here at Radomile Family Dental Care in Drexel Hill. We’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you have and give you more pointers to help your child.
If it’s time to schedule the first dental visit for your child, request your appointment today!