It is common (and fairly understandable) for a child to feel hesitant about going to the dentist for the first time. After all, they’re going into a new environment with new people and unfamiliar technology. More than that, having your mouth examined can feel invasive and uncomfortable if you're not used to it.
It's important that your child’s first dental experiences are comfortable to create positive associations. 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.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
Avoid scary words. For example, when you're explaining the dental appointment process to your child, try replacing words like "needle" with "spritzer," or "drill" with "brush."
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."
Be honest with your child if they ask questions, but avoid harsh or intimidating 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.
You can play pretend with your child before their first visit to create a fun and light-hearted energy around the dentist!
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 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.