Most adults remember their early experiences at the dentist. If you do, what kind of memories do you have? Now, think ahead to the experience your child will have during their first time at the dentist. With a few simple actions you can make your child’s first visit to the dentist as positive and successful as possible.
Preparing your child for their first dental appointment!
A first visit will involve examining teeth, checking for signs of problems (typically early decay), and talking about proper tooth care such as oral hygiene, diet, and oral habits (such as avoiding thumb-sucking).
Steps to the appointment
Preparing your child for their first visit to the dentist can begin even before going to the dentist: let them get accustomed to having their mouth explored. Before a child even has teeth, wiping their gums and using a small child’s brush with soft bristles can help your child become used to dental exploration.
If you yourself are comfortable with going to the dentist, that helps, and if your dentist’s office has a pleasant, relaxed setting, you might consider bringing your child along to your appointments. This would depend on how child-friendly your dentist’s office is, and whether the experience would translate positively into your child’s ideas of what their own experience will be. Don’t take the opportunity to tell your child “horror stories” of your own experiences with dentistry.
Once your child is verbal, discuss in positive language what they might experience. Helping your child to visualize a little bit of what will be happening can often help a child dismiss preconceived ideas and worries. A child will respond better to positive ideas of having clean healthy teeth than to hearing statements like, “this isn’t going to hurt”. Obviously, it’s also better to avoid mention of drilling, needles, freezing, and pain.
When you do take your child to visit the dentist, first visit or not, schedule things so that your child arrives well-fed and rested. Your child might have certain times of day that would work best; if that’s the case see whether the dental visits can match those times. Also, when heading to a dental visit, allow lots of time so that you arrive early and are not rushed.
When at the dentist, keep the mood upbeat. If your child has a favourite item — a toy, teddy, or blanket — bringing that along might also help. Point out other children who are managing their visit to the dentist well: your child will be looking for clues about how other children are acting in this new setting.
Finally, be prepared to wrap up the visit if it is going badly. While some upset is possible, if your child is deeply panicked, consider trying again another time.
Tips for parents
A child’s first dental visit is also an important time for parents — especially first-time parents — to also get educated on child tooth care: proper cleaning, foods and food habits, and attitude to dentistry. It’s also a time to assess how well a dentist will meet you and your child’s needs. You should look for a dentist who is:
- responsive and friendly to parents and children
- knowledgeable about dental health, growth, and developemnt in children
- patient with upset children
- ready to give information about caring for your child’s teeth
To arrange a first dental appointment for your child, contact Sherway Gardens Dental Centre today. We would be happy to discuss your child’s needs and how to approach their visit.