It's completely normal for a child to feel nervous or scared during their first visit to the dentist. It's a new place with unfamiliar faces, and there are strange-looking tools and equipment all around.
For kids who haven't had much exposure to dental care, having their mouths examined can be overwhelming and unsettling.
That's why it's crucial to ensure that your child's first dental experiences are positive. These initial visits play a significant role in shaping their future attitude towards dental care, so it's important to make sure they start off on the right foot!
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.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
It's important to use words that won't scare your child. For instance, words like "needle" or "drill" can be frightening. Instead, you can use words like "spray" or "spritz" instead of "needle," and refer to the drill as a "whistle brush." This can help make your child feel more comfortable and less anxious during their dental visit.
Ultimately, 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.
Play down your own negative feelings and experiences.
Many adults feel nervous about visiting the dentist as well. It’s quite normal, but you probably don’t want to pass those feelings on to your children!
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, play pretend with your child. You can be the dentist and they can be the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush.
You can make counting your child's teeth fun by starting with the number one or the letter A. Avoid using drilling noises or showing dental instruments. Instead, you can hold up a mirror and demonstrate how the dentist might examine and check their teeth. This approach can help create a positive and engaging experience for your little one at the dentist.
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.