If you think about it, it’s understandable that a child may feel nervous or scared when they first visit the dentist. After all, they’re going into a new environment that has new people, and unfamiliar technology and tools everywhere they look.
And for children who aren’t accustomed to dental care, having their mouths examined may feel intimidating and invasive.
Having said this, it’s important that your child’s first dental experiences are positive. Those initial visits can set the tone for your child’s future attitude to dental care, so you'll want to get them off to a good start!
One of the best things you can do to make your children’s first dental appointments non-threatening and positive is to prepare them ahead of time. Sit down with your children when they’re feeling calm and relaxed, and have a chat with them about what to expect.
Here’s some advice about what you should – and shouldn’t – say.
Wisely select your words and don't be too specific.
Do your best to avoid using words that could sound scary to your kids. Words such as, "needle" or "drill" might seem off-putting, so instead try replacing "needle" with "spray" or "spritz", or instead of drill use "whistle brush".
Essentially, it's best to keep it as simple as possible. For example, you can say:
"The dentist is going to count your teeth and make them nice and clean."
If they ask you follow-up questions, be honest with them, but be sure to use mild language and keep it as simple as you can.
Play down your own negative experiences and feelings.
There are lots of adults that are also anxious about going to the dentist. So these feelings are normal, however, you most likely don't want to pass these emotions onto your children.
When you talk about your dental experiences and feelings with your child, try to keep your language mild and positive.
Try a pretend visit.
Before the first dentist appointment, play pretend with your child. You can be the dentist and they can be the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush.
Count your little one's teeth by starting with the number one or the letter A. Avoid making drilling noises or lining up other "instruments." You can even hold up a mirror and show them how the dentist might look at and examine their teeth.
Let your child role-play by using a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a stuffed animal or doll. The key is getting your child familiar with the routine so that they're more comfortable for the real visit.