Understandably, the first dental appointment for a child can be scary and overwhelming. There are several reasons a child would feel afraid and anxious about visiting the dentist. Research shows that fear of injections (anesthesia) is the most common reason children around seven years old and below are scared of dental appointments. Watching TV shows and hearing stories from other kids about their unpleasant experiences with dental visits might also be a factor.
Your child’s first dental appointment isn’t only stressful for them. It can be stressful for parents as well. Some parents may be unsure whether their children will cry, run, or throw a tantrum on the day of their appointment.
But don’t fret, as this article will be your guide to preparing your child for their first dental appointment. Once you can prepare well and bring your child to the dentist, future dental appointments will go smoothly.
In This Article
- 1. Select the best pediatric dentist
- 2. Notify your child of their first dental appointment on the same day as scheduled
- 3. Talk positively about what a dental appointment is like
- 4. Read children’s books about going to the dentist
- 5. Role-play a dental visit scenario with your child
- 6. Let them bring their comfort toy
1. Select the best pediatric dentist
You probably already have a trusted family dentist for yourself and other family members. But when it comes to your child’s first dental appointment, it may be best to hire a pediatric dentist or a childrens dentist.
Although they have the same job as a family dentist, a pediatric dentist is more trained and experienced in handling children and acknowledging their behaviors. They also have a deeper understanding of their young patients and their common oral health issues.
When choosing your child’s pediatric dentist, you can visit the dentist’s clinic ahead of time to see if their office is child-friendly and comfortable for your kid. Preferably, choose a dentist that offers a clean, cozy, and warm clinic with calm and compassionate staff. A pleasant and comforting ambiance will help a child calm down, particularly the most nervous ones.
2. Notify your child of their first dental appointment on the same day as scheduled
According to research, imagining future scenarios can significantly impact the real-life effect. For instance, when you tell your child about their upcoming dental appointment, their imaginations may start running wild. They’ll think of what could happen during their first dental visit. The “dental visit” scenarios they come up with may make them more anxious and afraid. So, it won’t be a good idea to let your child know about their scheduled dental visit in advance.
It’s also not advisable to bring your kid to the dentist without giving them a heads-up. The best time to tell them about their visit to the dentist is on the same day as the appointment. You could inform them in the morning and gently explain that they’ll visit a teeth doctor who will check and count their teeth and improve their smile.
3. Talk positively about what a dental appointment is like
As revealed in a study, parents can unknowingly pass their anxiety to their children. So, if you’re anxious about dental appointments and your children see it, they’re likely to feel the same way too. That’s why it’s best to avoid showing your anxiety to your child.
If you’ve told your child about your plan to bring them to the dentist, you may see initial reactions like anxiety, fear, or nervousness. Let them know that all these feelings are normal or valid.
Then use positive reinforcement by praising or rewarding them for agreeing to see the dentist. Answer all their questions regarding the visit but avoid giving too many details or mentioning words like “needle,” “injection,” “pain,” or “hurt.” You can also say that the teeth doctor will tickle their teeth and gums with a special toothbrush.
4. Read children’s books about going to the dentist
Another thing you can do to prepare your child is to introduce them to the dentist at an early age. Read them books describing dental visits. Books can help your child learn and understand who dentists are and what they do to help promote children’s oral health.
For a more enriching experience and a deeper understanding, you can choose books that include your kid’s favorite characters. These books will help them realize that even their favorite characters have dental appointments and develop a positive mindset that “If they can do it, I can too!”
5. Role-play a dental visit scenario with your child
Take some time before the appointment to role-play a dental visit scenario with your child. You can create a fantasy dental office in their bedroom and include their favorite stuffed toys as people sitting in the waiting area. You can act as the dentist and brush and count their teeth.
During the role-play, explain what you’re doing and highlight the importance of oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Then you can swap roles and let your child play the dentist with their favorite stuffed toys.
6. Let them bring their comfort toy
Sitting in a dental office and waiting to be called can make your child feel uncomfortable and anxious. To relieve your child’s anxiety and nervousness before and during the dental appointment, allow them to bring their comfort toy or favorite stuffed animal. This way, they’ll feel at ease playing or fiddling with their toy while waiting for their turn.
The first dental appointment can be nerve-wracking for a child. But with these tips, you can mentally and emotionally prepare your little one and ensure their first dental visit goes well. If you have questions regarding your child’s dental appointment, reach out to your trusted pediatric dentist who will be happy to help.