How to prep your child for their first visit to the dentist
You know that regular dental checkups are important to your child’s health, and for both your sakes, it’s ideal to start off on the right foot and set things up for years of calm – even enjoyable! – visits, rather than having to fight your child into the chair each time. Our dedicated Children’s Dentistry team of dentists and hygienists are wonderful at working with kids of all different ages and personalities, and our special children’s and youth rooms will certainly go a long way to helping your child enjoy their experience, but there are a few things you can do before your child ever steps through our doors that will really help to set you both up for success.
1. Start early
One of the easiest things to do that makes the most impact is to simply start early. The younger your child is when she or he first visits us, the simpler and easier the experience will be, and the more comfortable your child will be in the long run.
A faster, simpler appointment
It makes sense that if you bring your child in to see us very early on, he or she will likely not have any major issues yet. Not only is that a positive just in terms of your child’s health and catching potential problems early, it also means that the first visit (or first several visits) can be quick, calm, and simple. If you wait until there’s a problem, your child’s first experience will be a lot less pleasant, and future experiences will be colored by a more negative lens.
The ideal age to start
We recommend bringing your child in as soon as the first teeth begin to emerge – generally around their first birthday.
Pick the right time of day
It’s best for kids to visit us when they’re feeling rested and up for an adventure! You know your child’s schedule and when they tend to be tired, hungry, or less social, so choose the time of day you know has the best chance for a good experience.
2. Talk about it
Once you’ve got the appointment booked, start talking about it! Don’t just spring the visit on your child – as with almost anything else from bedtime to leaving the playground, if you give your child a little advance warning, the whole thing will go a lot more smoothly.
Set the tone – but don’t say “hurt”
When you’re talking about the upcoming appointment, be sure to set a positive tone. This is fairly obvious, but what’s less obvious is that you don’t want to use certain words – even if you’re using them in an attempt to soothe or be positive.
If you tell your child, “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt,” there’s a good chance your child will zero in on that one word and have the opposite reaction than was intended. If your child asks you specifically if this is going to hurt, you can obviously respond by saying no but otherwise, just avoid the word.
3. Practice and play
In addition to talking about the upcoming appointment, you can work the concept of visiting the dentist into your child’s playtime!
Books, TV, and play
Read books or watch TV programs about visiting the dentist, or depending on your child’s age, you can even play ‘dentist’ by pretending to examine your child’s mouth or letting them examine your mouth or a doll’s mouth.
Be sure to keep up with regular brushing
Aside from the benefits to the cleanliness and health of your child’s gums and teeth, regular at-home cleaning and brushing will also mean your child is already used to someone looking into their mouth and checking their teeth. It’s just one more way to help your child feel comfortable with the whole experience.
Let us take it from there!
Once you’re here, our Children’s Dentistry team and administrative professionals will do everything possible to make your child’s experience a good one. Read more about what to expect during their first visit here, and be sure to check out our Parent’s Guide to Children’s Dental Health and Mom’s Guide to Infant Dental Health.