What are some tips to prepare kids for their first dental visit?
- Choose the right dentist
- Be positive
- Read books about going to the dentist
- Play “Dentist”
- Schedule the appointment for the right time
- Bring a friend
- Use positive reinforcement
Going to the dentist for the first time can be scary for some, and that’s no big deal. Some adults are even scared to go to the dentist!
For children, the first dental visit is shrouded in mystery. They don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen. To help them get ready, here are some tips to prepare kids for their first dental visit.
Choose the right dentist
It’s recommended that you bring your child to a pediatric dentist instead of a general dentist. Pediatric dentists have two to three years of specialty training that focuses on treating children. These range from babies, toddlers, children, adolescents, and even children with special needs.
During their studies, pediatric dentists learn about child development. This helps them understand all they need to know about their growing smiles. They are taught different techniques on how to deal with kids to make the experience an extremely positive one.
If you’re a parent who suffers from dental anxiety, then it’s time to put a brave face on your child. Studies show that parents can pass those anxieties to their children. So, it’s important to never show your nerves to them.
Since it’s their first dental appointment, you need to talk about the dentist in a positive light. Talk to them about how important it is for them to see one because they’re in charge of protecting their teeth.
Never talk about negative experiences or procedures you have in the future. You should avoid terms like “injections”, “bleed”, and “scrape”. Using those words can paint a picture in their heads that it will happen to them, too. Remember that your child will still have many more appointments to come.
Read books about going to the dentist
One of the best ways to prepare your kids for the dentist is to read them books about it. This not only shows them what to expect at the dentist, but it also shows their favorite characters go to dentists, too!
If your child enjoys the Berenstain Bears, Peppa Pig, or Dora the Explorer, find books about their dental visits. They’ll start to think “If Peppa can do it, I can too!” Read these books about two weeks before their appointment. It can help you recap with them what to expect on the day itself.
Here are a few books to help you get started:
- Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig)
- The Took Book by Dr. Seuss
- Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist Dora the Explorer
- Elmo Visits the Dentist by P.J. Shaw
Always remember that the dentist is a mysterious experience for kids. Help them imagine what’s going to happen in the most fun way – play dentist with them!
Pull out all the stops for this game. Create a make-believe dental office by setting up a “dentist chair”. Let their favorite stuffed toys be the patient, and grab their toothbrush.
Start the game by acting out as the dentist. If your child doesn’t want to play patient yet, use one of their favorite stuffed toys. You can use them to demonstrate what happens at the dentists while explaining why oral hygiene is important.
Once they’re more comfortable, let your child be the patient. Teach them how to open their mouth wide as you count and brush their teeth. You can even swap roles with your child. Allow them to be the dentist while their stuffed animals are the patients.
Schedule the appointment for the right time
Schedule your child’s first dentist appointment at the right time. That means you need to avoid times when they’re hungry or tired.
Most children follow a schedule, so work around that. Don’t schedule the appointment before nap time or before a meal. Pick a time slot when they are playful or ready to mingle with others. This can be after a nap or after a good snack.
Choosing the right time allows you to keep the tantrums and tears at bay. When your child is either hungry or tired, they tend to be less tolerant and less cooperative with new situations.
Bring a friend
New situations seem less scary when you have a friend. Allow your child to bring their beloved stuffed animal or favorite toy to their first dentist appointment.
Having a familiar face with them helps them feel secure and safe. Allow them to hug their friend tight if they feel nervous. Let their friend be their good luck charm!
Use positive reinforcement
If you see your child feeling nervous, offer them lots of positive reinforcement and words of encouragement.
Kids love to hear how brave they are. So, tell them that they were so brave for showing up at the dentist. Let them know that it’s normal to feel nervous and that it was so great of them to conquer their fears.
However, not all kids will put on a brave face. No matter how much preparation you do, they might still end up crying. When this happens, do not panic or stress over it. Remember that this was a new environment for them, so they’ll need help calming down and feeling at ease.
Whether they did good or ended up crying in the appointment, always review what happened at the dentist in a positive light. Tell them the positive aspects of their visit and how they can overcome the negative ones.
Bringing your child to a dentist is a big step. That’s why we provided tips to prepare kids for their first dental visit. Prepare them the best you can through books and games while being the positive light they need in this new experience.
If you haven’t found a pediatric dentist yet, you can visit us here at Elevate Dental. We have skilled pediatric dentists who are ready to care for your child’s teeth and make their appointment comfortable and stress-free. Click here to book an appointment with us.
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