Let’s be honest, a first trip to any medical office can be scary for children. Not knowing what they will see, feel or hear may cause them to be nervous. To avoid an unpleasant dental visit, we recommend these useful tips.
Watch Your Mouth
Children are little sponges and they will develop their habits and fears based on what observe about their parents. Even when you answer a reminder call from the office, make sure to talk about it in a positive way. Using phrases like, “Oh no, I have to go to the dentist tomorrow” might lead them to believe it is a scary place. If their mom or dad doesn’t want to go, why should they.
Talk It Over
Let your child know you made them an appointment a few days ahead and see if they have questions. Without giving too many details, assure them that they are going to have their teeth counted, brushed and checked for problems. Also let them know that they can ask the doctor questions because he/she is there to help.
Read All About It
There are hundreds of fun books available to read about going to the dentist. Animated characters and funny stories are a good way of introducing new information. SpongeBob, Curious George and Elmo have all been featured in a book about visiting the dentist for the first time.
Pretend you are the patient and have your child examine and fix your teeth. If nothing else, your kids will enjoy playing with you and might take interest in your dental work.
If you can bring your child in for a short tour of the office, or have them come in for a few minutes while you get your teeth cleaned, it will take away any mystery about the surroundings. Their next official visit will be much more comfortable.
Focus On The Positive
If the doctor does find a problem, assure your child that it’s the dentist who knows how to fix it. Many parents make the mistake of turning the doctor into a creepy person by comments like, “Well, if you get a cavity,
Dr. ____ will have to take your tooth out.” How would you like it if someone said that to you?
Before you step into the office, remind your child that the staff are friendly and can be trusted. Good behavior is expected and when they are asked to open, they should open. In the event that your child isn’t ready to cooperate and follow instructions, it’s not the end of the world. They can try again another day.
Take A Step Back
While in the office, try your best to let the staff have one on one time with your child. Many dental practices do not allow parents in the back so don’t be surprised. Children find confidence in knowing they can talk and walk on their own and the staff sometime have a much easier time without mom or dad close by as a distraction.
A job well done deserves a reward so let them have something from the treasure box or take them for ice cream. While you are celebrating, try to stay away from terms like, “You were so brave.” Even though that seems harmless enough, they might start to think it could’ve been a scary situation. Just like getting checkups from the medical doctor, taking a trip to the dentist is a necessary part of life that we should all take part in.
Do It Again
Whether the first visit was a complete success or an unexpected mishap, the key to a lifelong love for your dentist is built around consistency. Just like adults, children should have their teeth examined and cleaned at least twice a year.
Fear not parents, even if you aren’t looking forward to your next trip to the dentist, won’t it be amazing when your children are?!