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 with new people, and unfamiliar technology and tools are 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 most important things you can do to make your children's first dental visits less stressful and more positive is to prepare them ahead of time. Sit down with your children when they are calm and relaxed and talk to 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.
Avoid using words that may be frightening to your child. For example, the words "needle" or "drill" could be frightening. Instead of "needle," try "spray" or "spritz," or "whistle brush" instead of drill.
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.
Begin counting your child's teeth with the number one or the letter A. Make no drilling noises or line up any other "instruments." You can even show her how the dentist might look and check her teeth by holding up a mirror.
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 they're more comfortable for the real visit.