This post was submitted by Aaron.
Every child is different, but it does seem like most of them have some trepidation when it comes to going to the doctor and to the dentist. Since so many kids associate going to the doctor with getting shots, that fear is easy to understand. However, when it comes to the fear of going to the dentist for the first time, parents can be very supportive and help their children realize that they should not be afraid.
Recently, my wife and I have been studying and preparing our little girls for their first dental visit. At the beginning of this journey, we had no idea what to do, but after a lot of research, reading and writing ideas out, we have found things that are working well. Our girls are actually excited to meet the dentist for the first time and to learn more about how he will help them keep their teeth happy and pretty!
From this study and practice with our 2 little girls, we discovered many different strategies that other parents have shared. Here are a few different ways you can prepare your child for a positive experience at his or her first dental office visit:
How to Make Your Child’s First Dental Visit Enjoyable
Communicate with the Office Staff: When you schedule your child’s first dental appointment, let the office staff know that it is the first one. Children can be stubborn at the appointments, by not opening their mouths or being uncooperative in the chair, so it can be very helpful to let the dentist’s office know what will work with your child and what will not. Many dentists’ offices are prepared to handle children, but it is always helpful to be the advocate for your child, especially if you know what triggers will frustrate your child the most.
Children are Different: You might have one child who has no problems going to the dentist and you might have another second child who bites and cries. It is important for parents to know how their children react and to respect their differences. You should not compare the two and make the child who is more sensitive feel less worthy than the child who is less afraid.
Thank You Gifts: Children love to receive gifts and they love to give gifts. One way to make the office visit fun is to challenge your child to remember the people who helped her and then to make a special card or gift for each person. These gifts can be delivered at the next appointment six months later, or they can be hand delivered as soon as they are completed.
Children’s Choices: Children are often very scared of the unknown and visiting the dentist for the first time is an unknown activity. You can empower your child by allowing your child to make a few decisions the day of the dentist’s appointment. Maybe your child chooses her outfit, or she decides where you will go for fun when the appointment is finished. Maybe you even let your child brush her own teeth before the appointment, so she feels like she did the work to make her feet shiny and clean for the dentist.
Show Off Your Own Teeth: There is nothing wrong with letting your child examine your teeth. Your child can practice counting by counting your teeth. If you have had a cavity, you can ask your child to find the tooth that needed to be fixed. You can tell positive stories about the dentist by using your teeth as a guide.
Safe and Secure: We all know how difficult it is to talk when the dentist has her teeth in your mouth. Giving your child a safe word or safe hand motion will help relieve stress when it comes to the time your child is in the chair. If your child is having difficulties trying to say something, he can do the hand motion and the dentist can stop.
Check pediatric dental websites: Many if not most dentists have decent websites. Some of them have tips and articles or steps to prepare your child for his or her first visit. If their site does not offer this, be sure to ask them for a set of tips and strategies several weeks in advance, as they have had experiences with countless visits with children, and they will have great insight and ideas to help your little one have a “tear free” trip to the dentist!
Dental visits do not have to create stress (at least not too much). Children can have fun at the dentist and you can rest easy along the way. And although adults tend to put off dental visits because they are not always the most pleasant experience, using these ideas and the ideas of pediatric dentists can ensure that your child will have a pleasant and successful first visit, laying the foundation for positive future visits as well.
Aaron has been working with his wife Jen on preparing their 2 little girls, Gracie and Joy, for their first dental visit. They wrote this article to share with other parents some of the ideas they have discovered along the way. Aaron works with 5th Avenue Acquisitions who specialize in dental practice sales, and has worked for years in the dental industry as a consultant.