It is pretty understandable when a child is scared to go to the dentist for the first time. They are going to a new environment with new people, and technology they are unfamiliar with is going to be used on them. For children, getting their mouth examined can feel invasive, and there are plenty of kids who think it will be very painful.
Despite these reservations, it is crucial that your child’s first dental experiences are positive in order to create a good association. This will better ensure your child's good attitude toward dental care and oral health into adulthood.
One of the best things you can do to make your children’s first dental appointments non-threatening and positive is to prepare them ahead of time. Sit down with your children when they’re feeling calm and relaxed, and have a chat with them about what to expect.
Here’s some advice about what you should – and shouldn’t – say.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
Try to replace scarier words when explaining what the dentist is to your child. For example, "needle" or "drill" might be intimidating; instead, try "spray" or "spritz" in place of needle, 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."
Give your child's questions honest answers, but soften the truth with less-daunting words.
Play down your own 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.
You can play pretend with your child before their first visit and turn the dentist into a game.
Count your little one's teeth by starting with the number one or the letter Avoid making drilling noises or lining up other "instruments." You can even hold up a mirror and show her how the dentist might look at and check her teeth.
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.