It’s crucial to get an early start on your kiddo’s dental health to ensure proper care and development. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends kids attend their first dental visit at 12 months, or when they get their first tooth. Getting your children to the dentist while they’re young lets them get comfortable with the idea – making future appointments a piece of cake.
Children at the dentist can often experience dental anxiety, so it’s important to set them up for success before their visit. Here are a few ways to reassure your kiddos that the dentist can be easy and even fun!
#1: Be positive
If you’re stressed, then your kiddos are stressed. Try not to pass on your own dental anxiety to your children. Avoid talking about negative experiences or using words like:
Instead, hype up how fun the appointment can be. Chat about the big comfy chair they get to sit in, the yummy toothpaste flavors they get to pick, and if they’re really good, the prize they get at the end!
#2: Tour a pediatric dentist’s office beforehand
Dental anxiety often stems from the unknown, so letting your child get a feel for the environment will help make things more predictable when they arrive for their appointment. Most pediatric dental offices are designed with children in mind, so be sure to highlight all the fun toys, games, and books when you visit.
Pediatric dentists also study child development and psychology, so they know all the ins and outs of making your child as comfortable as can be. They’ll often use tell-show-do techniques to demonstrate how the upcoming appointment will go to help your kiddo be ready when the time comes!
#3: Watch videos and read books
When kids see their favorite characters happily going to the dentist, it helps put a positive outlook on things and gives them an idea of what to expect.
#4: Play games
Kids love communicating through playtime, so try speaking their language. Bust out their toothbrush and have them lay down in a comfy chair, then go through a mock version of the upcoming appointment. Brush and count their teeth, explain the importance of keeping their smile clean, and then let them try it on some of their toys!
#5: Practice proper dental care early
Getting a headstart on proper dental care makes your child’s first dental visit a breeze. If you’re looking for some tips on dental care for young children, try one of our guides on oral care for children:
#6: Bring Some Friends
Well, preferably the stuffed ones. Bringing along your child’s favorite toy to hold on to will help them feel safe and secure at their appointment. Having a familiar face in the room is a great way to bring a little bit of home with them and makes for a more comfortable check-up.
#7: Be Smart About Scheduling
Let’s be honest – when kids are tired they can be less than cooperative and are far less likely to be happy about a new situation.
Be sure to schedule their dental visits when your child is well rested and energetic such as in the earlier morning hours or after nap time. You also want to ensure there are no rumbling tummies before the appointment, so have them eat a nice snack or meal beforehand.
#8: Positive Reinforcement
As a parent, you know things don’t always go according to plan. Don’t worry!
Even if your child is fussy or cries during their appointment, try not to focus on the negatives. Rest assured, pediatric dentists aren’t afraid of fussy kids, so there’s no reason to stress about a less than perfect visit.
Talk about what went well and reassure your kiddo that each time will be easier.
Focus on the positive aspects of the appointment, such as:
- The fun new toothbrush they got
- The dentist counting their teeth
- The comfy chair that moves
- The prize they picked at the end
- All the yummy toothpaste flavors they got to choose from
- The prizes they could pick at their next visit
Following these tips will help your child be prepared to go to the dentist. Remind your little one the dentist is their friend and they are there to help. And remember – your pediatric dentist is well equipped to help your child through their visit. If you are still feeling anxious about your kiddo’s appointment, don’t hesitate to call their office and ask them about your concerns.