How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Dentist Appointment
Teaching children at an early age the importance of oral hygiene can start them on the path to maintaining healthy, clean teeth. Part of the process is visiting the dentist, as only a dentist can thoroughly examine the mouth, making sure all teeth and gums are healthy and in good care.
However, most children find the dentist to be a scary place, as it is an unfamiliar place with big machinery that look as if they could inflict a fair amount of pain. While the dentist is not harmful, convincing your child of that for their first appointment can be challenging.
Here are a few ways to help prepare your child for their first visit:
First and foremost, the best way to help ease your child’s fear of the dentist is to find a caring Pediatric Dentist. Friendly dentists can truly help make your child feel more comfortable during their visit. Kid-friendly dentists have experience with children and know how to make them laugh, when to take a break, and how to make them feel relaxed. The environment should feel safe and the office should be filled with kid-friendly colors, pictures, and books.
Take a Tour
If possible, see if you can schedule a tour at your dentist’s office before your child’s appointment. If they can meet the dentist beforehand, see the office, and get a feel for how their appointment will go, they will most likely be far more relaxed when it is time for their appointment.
Describe the Process
If you are unable to take a tour of the office, spend some time describing the process to your child. Tell them what they should expect when coming to the office, who their dentist is, and what the dentist will need to do inside of their mouth. Knowing more information about the process can help soothe any anxiety they feel over the appointment.
Moreover, spend some time teaching them why it is important to visit the dentist. Many kids might not understand the purpose behind seeing the dentist, and giving them real reasons can help them begin to see why they need to go.
For instance, without scaring them, let them know that in order for teeth to stay healthy, they need a professional to check on them. If your child has been to a pediatrician, it can be helpful to use that as an example, letting them know that similarly to visiting their pediatrician to make sure their body’s were strong and healthy, they need to visit a dentist to make sure their mouths are strong and healthy.
Stay With Them
Let your child know that you will be next to them every step of the way. Pediatric dentist offices know that most parents will want to stay with their children, thus the dentist rooms often come equipped with extra chairs and room to accommodate an extra body in the room.
Why Are They Afraid?
It can be difficult to diagnose your children’s fears of the dentist if you do not fully understand why or what they are afraid of. Sit down with them and ask them what they are worried about. Once you recognize where their fears are stemming from, you can figure out a game plan to help them relax. For some, it might be a movie that bothered them. For others, it could be a classmate or elder sibling that said something that accidentally scared them. Knowing the problem can help you soothe your child’s fears.
Lead by Example
Children pick up on the fears and emotions of their parents, thus try to lead by example by keeping your own dentist appointments, being cheerful when leaving for them, and being positive when you talk about your appointment. It can be easy to unintentionally say something negative about the appointment, and while it might not necessarily have anything to do with the dentist itself, your child might mistake your negativity for fear. Additionally, if they have seen you cancel appointments, they might be quick to try and get out of their own appointments.
Though the unknown can be unnerving for children, preparing them thoroughly ahead of time can help them be happy and relaxed for their first appointment.