It's understandably common that children feel nervous or scared when they first visit the dentist. After all, they’re going into a new environment with new people, unfamiliar technology, and tools are everywhere they look.
And for children who aren’t accustomed to dental care, having their mouths examined may feel intimidating and invasive.
Having said this, it’s important that your child’s first dental experiences are positive. Those initial visits can set the tone for your child’s future attitude to dental care, so you'll want to get them off to a good start!
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 is some advice to parents on what you should - and shouldn't - say to make the process easier for your child.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
Try to avoid any scary or intimidating words. You can replace them with softer alternatives. For example, "needle" or "drill" might be alarming. Instead, you could replace "needle" with "spray" or "spritz", or try "whistle brush" instead of drill.
The bottom line is to keep it simple! Try saying, "The dentist is going to count your teeth and make them nice and clean."
Be honest with your child if they ask questions, keeping in mind to be gentle and avoid any scary 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.
Try a pretend visit.
Before the first dentist appointment, play pretend with your child. You can be the dentist and they can be the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush.
Count your little one's teeth by starting with the number one or the letter A. You can try holding up a mirror so the child can see what it might look like when they're in the dentist chair.
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.