Taking your child to the dentist shouldn’t be, well, like pulling teeth. Here are nine tips for drama-free dental appointments.
You child’s first dental exam is an important first step in ensuring your child’s overall dental health. How parents frame that first exam makes all the difference when it comes to how much anxiety your child may have when it comes to future visits.
Parents should schedule that first dentist appointment by the time their child turns 1 year old. Creating that early relationship allows a dentist to grow with the child and allows parents to learn about the habits and diet essential for good oral hygiene.
Here are My Tips:
- Find a smile. Visit a few pediatric dental offices to find the best fit for your child. The office should be friendly and soothing to your child.
- Attitude matters. Parents, if you’re anxious about the visit, your children will be anxious too. Project confidence and a feeling that this is a positive event. Doing so is contagious and soothing to your children.
- Talk to the older siblings.Speak with older siblings about how to frame a visit to the dentist. Don’t allow them to offer unnecessary information to the younger ones.
- Keep chatter to a minimum.Many parents make the mistake of overselling the dentist. Don’t talk about it too much. Be casual about it. At the same time, prepare your child by telling them a few things that will happen, such as, “The dentist will count your teeth and show you how to brush.”
- Don’t make promises. Don’t make any promises about shots or pain. That sets children up for a lifetime of dental distrust and unrealistic expectations. A first visit should not be painful or require shots; however, what children find painful is subjective
- Start early. Start daily dental hygiene early. Teach children the parts of the mouth when you’re teaching them about the body.
- Be comfortable. On the day of the appointment, dress children in comfortable clothing. One idea: have your child pick out a “going to the dentist” outfit that he or she is excited to wear.
- Schedule appropriately. One mistake I see happening all the time is that parents schedule dental appointments right before lunch or during nap time. If you can avoid that, I recommend it. Tired children equal cranky children, and the appointment will be more difficult for everyone.
- Read and play. There are several books you can read to your child before the appointment. Some good ones are Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer; Peppa Pig Dentist Trip Scholastic Readers; Going to the Dentist by Anne Civardi; and Brush, Brush, Brush by Alicia Padron. Or, try the Monster Mouth DDS smartphone app that’s super funny (and a little yucky!) and offers comical lessons in dental hygiene.
Remember, children mirror your behavior. If you’re anxious, they’ll be anxious. If you just relax and make brushing a part of your children’s everyday schedule, your child’s first dental appointment will be a breeze — for both of you!