Your child’s experience at their first few dental visits can shape how he or she views the dentist for the rest of their life. It is therefore really important to make their initial visits as enjoyable and stress free as possible. I’ve found the best approach for familiarising your child with the dentist is to bring your child in with you when you have your check-up appointments from the age of 1 or 2. We can make these early appointments fun by having your child sit on your lap and giving them a ride in the chair. We can also havea look at their teeth to ensure there are no problems and have a chat about the importance of brushing and eating the correct foods. This creates a positive initial impression and begins to establish a regular routine of visiting the dentist. As your child becomes more confident they can begin to sit in the chair on their own and we can use the in-mouth video camera to “put their teeth on TV” and count them together. I have found that kids really enjoy this visual aid which not only allows us to check their teeth but is also great to show your child where they may be missing when brushing. When your child is happy and comfortable in the chair we will give their teeth a clean and polish and given them helpful hints on how to improve their oral hygiene. These fun initial appointments establish a positive association with visiting the dentist. They also allow for early detection of any dental issues that may need attention. It is very important that your child’s first dental encounter isn’t one where they need a filling or an extraction. This may leave your child with a fear or phobia of returning for routine visits, which may impact on their overall health. Another helpful tip to make your child’s first trip to the dentist enjoyable is to establish a fun environment beforehand. The “Peppa Pig Dentist Trip” episode or book can be a great way to do this.
Using toy dental or doctor kits to play with and inspect each others teeth can also be a fun way to prepare your child for their first appointment.
Be relaxed with your children when talking about the dentist. Try to avoid using negative words, and be sure not to pass on any feelings of fear or anxiety which you might have.
A positive way of discussing with your child their first dental visit is to tell them they are going to meet a new friend, their dentist, who is going to give them a chair-ride on a magic chair and may also count their teeth and check they're nice and healthy. Avoid statements like “If you don’t clean your teeth you’ll have to go to the dentist” or “If you’re good it’s not going to hurt”.
Your positive attitude can help a lot. After all, going to the dentist these days can be lots of fun!
Dr Nick Wilding