It's understandable why your child might be apprehensive about visiting the dentist. It is a new experience with new people and unfamiliar technology and tools are everywhere they look. Also, if it's one of your child's first appointments and they aren't accustomed to dental care, having their mouths examined may feel intimidating and invasive.
Having said that, dental care is essential to your child's oral health so 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 to dental care, so you'll want to get them off to a good start!
One of the best things you can do to make your children’s first dental appointments non-threatening and positive is to prepare them ahead of time. Sit down with your children when they’re feeling calm and relaxed, and have a chat with them about what to expect.
Here’s 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, using age-appropriate language and staying positive.
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! If this is you, try to minimize your own experiences and focus on telling your child about the positive outcomes of good dental care.
Consider a pretend visit.
Before the first dentist appointment, play pretend with your child. Start by being the dentist while they are the patients, and then let them try being the dentist as well! Chances are, they'll think this is a fun experience and it might get them excited to meet a real dentist. 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.
You could also 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.