Making Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist a Great Experience

kids-exam-room-at-country-dental-cambridgeA child’s first trip to the dentist doesn’t have to be scary or traumatic.

In fact, it’s fairly easy to have a great first experience if both the parent and pediatric dentist work together.

A great first experience at the dentist not only sets your child up for great oral health in the years to come but also reduces their chance of developing anxiety towards the dentist that is common in so many adults. Plus, you can find out if you are doing a proper job of cleaning your child’s teeth at home.

Here are 10 ways of preparing your child (and yourself) for their first dentist visit.

1. Don’t put off a child’s first trip to the dentist.

At Country Dental, we follow the Canadian Dental Association’s recommendation that a child first see a dentist within six months of cutting their first tooth or before their first birthday, whichever comes first.

This first dentist visit is important because the dentist will examine your child’s mouth, teeth, and gums. Early childhood visits to the dentist promote healthy teeth and prevent problems like cavities down the road.

Booking your child’s first dentist appointment at an early age also helps your child become more comfortable with going to the dentist, thinking of it as a simple routine activity.

2. Explain what will happen at the dentist.

Help set your child’s expectations about what will happen. Explain that the dentist will count their teeth and take pictures of their teeth. Avoid using any words that may sound scary such as drill, needle, shot, and so on. We also recommend avoid sayings like “Don’t be scared” or “It won’t hurt” as these naturally instill feelings of fear towards the possibility of pain.

3. Practice examining their teeth at home.

Help get your child comfortable with the idea of a dentist looking inside their mouth and feeling their teeth. Practice by having them open wide and counting their teeth. You can also prompt your child to play dentist on their own stuffed animals and dolls.

4. Find age appropriate books and movies about visiting the dentist.

Another great way for preparing for a first dental visit is to help them understand what will happen through pictures, videos, and stories. Get your child excited about their first dentist appointment by borrowing some children’s books about the dentist from the library or finding a few animated movies about the dentist that you can watch together on YouTube.

5. Plan a quick pre-visit to the dentist with your child.

Especially if it is your first time visiting the dentist consider dropping in beforehand so you and your child can get used to the setting. This will also give you a chance to fill out any necessary paperwork without having to worry about getting your child back to the examination room. Your child will likely remember the fun playroom, cool lights, and friendly receptionist and look forward to coming back for their own appointment.

6. Avoid booking appointments during mealtime and naptime.

You know your child’s schedule the best. Avoid a kid’s dentist appointment at a time when they regularly nap or are getting tired for a nap. You should also avoid booking an appointment around meal and snack time, as your child may need to wait at least 30 minutes before eating after their appointment.

7. Bring a comfort item from home.

Your child may feel more comfortable walking back to the chair or sitting patiently with their mouth open if they have their favorite blanket, teddy bear, or toy nearby.

8. Be sure to arrive a little early for the appointment.

Running late can make anyone feel stressed. Chances are if you are rushed and stressed your child will pick up on these emotions. Plan to arrive a little early so that both you and your child remain calm and have time to adjust to being inside the dentist office.

9. Share the fun perks of visiting the dentist.

If all else fails, explain to your child that the dentist will have a fun play area while they wait for the dentist and most likely a little treat after the dentist checks all their teeth.

10. If necessary, try to get over your own anxiety.

You may feel anxious about how your child will react to their first dentist appointment or you may have your own anxieties about going to the dentist. This is not uncommon. It is important to try to remain calm and face your own fears as your child’s emotions and behaviour will reflect your own behaviour.

Is your baby cutting their first tooth or have you put off your toddler’s first dentist appointment for too long?

Call 1-519-620-7474 to book an appointment with our kids dentist at Country Dental offices in Cambridge and Toronto Ontario, where we have a dedicated play zone and fun Smile Gallery wall.