When you think about it, it's understandable for a child to be nervous or scared of the dentist for the first time. After all, they're about to enter a new environment with new people, and unfamiliar technology and tools are all around them.
In addition, for children who aren't used to receiving dental care, having their mouths examined can be intimidating and invasive.
Having said that, your child's first dental visits must be positive. Those first visits can set the tone for your child's attitude toward dental care in the future, so you'll want to get them off to a good start!
One of the most important things you can do to make your children's first dental visits less stressful and more positive is to prepare them ahead of time. Sit down with your children when they are calm and relaxed and talk to them about what is going to happen.
Here’s some advice about what you should – and shouldn’t – say.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
Avoid using words that may be frightening to your child. For example, the words "needle" or "drill" could be frightening. Instead of "needle," try "spray" or "spritz," or "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 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.
Begin counting your child's teeth with the number one or the letter A. Make no drilling noises or line up any other "instruments." You can even show her how the dentist would examine and check her teeth by holding up a mirror.
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.