Understandably, a child might be nervous or scared when visiting the dentist for the first time. After all, they're entering a new environment with new people, with unfamiliar technology and tools aplenty.
Having their mouths examined can be intimidating and invasive for children who aren't used to dental care.
Having said that, your child must have a positive first dental experience. Those first visits can set the tone for your child's attitude toward dental care in the future, so you'll want to make a good first impression!
Preparing your children for their first dental appointments is one of the most effective ways to make them less threatening and more positive. Sit down with your children when they're calm and relaxed and talk to them about what they can expect.
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 your child might find frightening. The words "needle" or "drill," for example, can be frightening. Instead of "needle," you could use "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 make-believe 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. Making drilling noises or lining up other "instruments" is not a good idea. You can even show her how the dentist would examine and check her teeth by holding up a mirror.
Allow your child to role-play cleaning the teeth of a stuffed animal or doll with a toothbrush. The key is to familiarise your child with the routine so that they are more relaxed during the actual visit.