Taking your child to the dentist for the first time can be just as scary for parents as it is for children. For many children, the thought of having their teeth examined and cleaned sounds frightening, which is no fun for parents who only want their kids to maintain good oral health. After the little one has repeatedly shouted, “I don’t want to go!” your natural response soon becomes “neither do I!” But don’t worry; tooth check-ups for kids are easier than they sound. The dental practitioner will ensure maximum comfort for your child and help take away their fears. Even so, there are lots of ways to better prepare for that first visit to the dentist that will make both you and your child feel more confident. Here are some basic guidelines:
It is recommended that you take your child to the dentist by their first birthday, or soon after their first tooth erupts. The first visit is usually about educating parents on general care for your child’s primary (baby) teeth. Kids will likely be too young to be nervous at this age, but if you wait until they’ve reached the age of 2, they may experience some anxiety over their first visit. The earlier you go, the easier the routine becomes for the child. They’ll know what to anticipate, and that there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Familiarize them with the Routine
One way to help kids get more comfortable is to talk to them about what happens at the dentists’ office. Play pretend with your kids and show them how they’ll sit in the comfy chair and let the dentist clean their teeth. This way, the dentist becomes a fun experience. Kids can practice on their toys as well, and soon, they’ll be ready to experience the dentist’s office for real!
Educate your kids about their teeth and how it’s important for teeth to stay healthy and strong. Talk to them about common problems like plaque, cavities, and bacteria in an easy-to-understand way, and explain how the dentist helps prevent these things. Read books to them with characters afraid of going to the dentist, but later realizing it’s not scary. It can even be fun!
Reward, but don’t bribe
It’s usually customary for a child to receive a small toy, sticker, or new toothbrush after their visit. Similarly, parents can reward with a special time out to their child’s favorite restaurant, movie, etc. Using positive reinforcement like this will make the next trip much more enjoyable for you both. But don’t say, “If you don’t cry, you’ll get a treat!” The fact is, a few tears should be expected. It’s normal for a kid to be a little scared of something they haven’t experienced. Do encourage them to be brave, and remind them how important it is for their teeth to be clean. They’ll soon realize that going to the dentist isn’t so bad after all. Especially when they get a goody bag!