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 with new people, and unfamiliar machines and tools are everywhere they look.
Additionally, for children who aren’t accustomed to dental care, having their mouths examined may feel intimidating and invasive.
That said, 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 let's try 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.
Don't be too specific and choose your words carefully.
Try not to use words that might seem scary to your child. For example, 'needle' or 'drill' might be alarming. Instead, you could replace 'needle' with 'spray' or 'spritz', or try 'whistle brush' instead of drill.
Your best bet is to keep it simple. You could just say:
"The dentist is going to count your teeth and make them nice and clean."
If your child asks follow-up questions, be honest, but continue to keep it as simple as you can, and use mild language.
Downplay your own negative feelings and experiences.
Many adults themselves feel nervous about visiting the dentist. This is completely normal, but you probably don’t want to pass those feelings on to your kids and scare them away from good dental care!
When you talk about your dental experiences and feelings with your child, try to keep your language mild and positive.
Consider a pretend visit.
Before the first dentist appointment, use your imagination and 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 alphabet starting with the letter A. Avoid making drilling noises or lining up other "instruments." You can even hold up a mirror and show her how the dentist might look at and check her 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.