Many adults do not like going to the dentist. However, as anxiety-producing as it can be to sit in that chair, the results of regularly visiting your dentist cannot be beat. It should come as no surprise that the same is true for children.
Ensuring that your kids develop good tooth brushing habits is one of the best preventative measures you can take to ensure the longevity of their teeth. Of course, making sure that your child regularly visits the dentist for check-ups is also an important component of instilling oral health habits to last a lifetime. Here are a few tips to prepare your child for their first visit to the dentist’s office and set them up for success.
Explain to Your Child Who the Dentist Is
One way that parents can prepare their kids for their first trip to the dentist is to sit them down and explain the importance of going to the dentist.¹ One way to do this is to start talking about the dentist while your child brushes their teeth so they begin to associate the dentist with tooth brushing and their teeth.
Share a Photo of Your Dentist With Your Child
Continuing to bring up the dentist over time will help your child get more familiar with the concept. But, if you have a picture of the dentist to share with your child, that can also help to ease their anxiety about meeting this new stranger.
Play Pretend Dentist Scenarios With Your Child
Another tactic, depending on the age of your child, is to conduct a play scenario of what it will be like to visit the dentist so you can reduce your child’s discomfort and give them a better idea of what to expect. Discussing everything from the waiting room to the special chair the dentist uses to the inspection of their teeth should help to set a clearer picture of what the experience will be like.
Combat Misconceptions and Talk About the Benefits of Visiting the Dentist
It’s possible that your child has picked up on fear of visiting the dentist from you/your spouse, a TV program or even in their play group. If your child introduces any anxiety about visiting the dentist you should try your best to combat these fears and talk about all of the positives of going to the dentist.
Select a Pediatric Focused Dentist
Working with a pediatric dentist may help both you and your child get more comfortable with your child’s upcoming visit to the dentist. Pediatric dentists have extra training in working with and treating children’s oral health needs. This makes them much more adept at handling children’s anxieties about the dentist and creating a more pleasurable experience for your child.
Bring Your Child Along to Your Dental Appointment
If at all possible you could invite your child to accompany you to your own dental cleaning so that they can get a first hand experience with the environment and get introduced to some of the staff that they’ll be interacting with during their own check up.
Your child needs to learn that going to the dentist is not only necessary, but can be a positive experience as well.² Ultimately, the more you talk about the upcoming trip to the dentist and prepare your child, the more likely you can get them comfortable with the idea and create a much more pleasurable experience for everyone.
- A Child’s First Dental Visit Fact Sheet. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=a-childs-first-dental-visit-fact-sheet-1-1509
- May Clinic Staff. (2018, February 1). Dental Exam for Children. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dental-exam-for-children/about/pac-20393745
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