When you think about it, it's understandable that a child may feel scared or nervous about their first visit to the dentist. After all, they're entering a new environment with new people using unfamiliar technology and tools everywhere they look.
And for children who aren't used to dental care, having their mouths examined might feel intimidating and invasive.
That said, it's important that your child's first dental experiences are positive. Those initial visits can set the tone for your child's future attitude and interactions with dental care, so you'll want them to have a good start!
Taking time to prepare children for their first dental appointments is one of the best things you can do to make sure these visits are positive and non-threatening. Sit down with your kids when they're feeling calm and relaxed, and chat with them about what to expect.
Below is some advice about what you should - and shouldn't - say.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
Try to avoid words that might seem scary to your child. For example, "needle" or "drill" might be alarming. Instead, you could replace "needle" with "spray" or "spritz", or try "whistle brush" instead of drill.
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."
If your child asks follow-up questions, be honest, but continue to keep it as simple as you can, and use mild 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.
Before the first dentist appointment, play pretend with your child. You can be the dentist and they can be the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush.
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.