How Can You Make Your Child’s First Visit to a Dentist A Happy One?
You finally spotted a tooth coming out from your little one, and as months proceed, sooner or later you have to make a visit to a dentist.
How can you prepare a young one to brave the experience after teething?
As a toddler, the adult would can seem very gigantic and daunting. To have a dentist look into your small mouth with their metal equipment poking here and there, may not seem like fun.
You can make it easy for your kids to look forward to the dentist visit by reading books to them, talking to them about it, play pretend dentist with them, and giving a treat after the visit.
Here I will share clever tips that can help you better prepare for a happy dentist visit.
Let’s dive in.
When Should You Make Your Child’s First Appointment?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that a child go to the dentist by age 1 or within six months after the first tooth erupts.
Primary teeth typically begin growing in around 6 months of age.
So when you are ready to take your child to the dentist, I have the following tips for you.
How Do You Prepare Your Child for a Dental Visit?
Before The Appointment
Tip #1 Find a friendly dentist who is good with toddlers and young children
If your regular dentist also sees young children, it can be a bonus.
Since the dentist is already familar with you, he would have known your family history, and probably your child may be familar with him.
You can schedule one appointment for yourself and bring your child with you.
That way, you are leading by example that being at a dentist chair is very normal, and not a big thing to be scared about.
Search for friendly pediatric dentist
Well, if you decide to search for a pediatric dentist, you can ask your peers for a recommended centre nearby.
It is good idea to bring your child along for the recee if situation allows.
A pediatric dentist is trained in how to best care for your child as they get their baby teeth and later their adult teeth.
A bonus is that these dental offices will be decorated in bright colors and full of fun activities and child size furniture.
What is expected for your baby’s dental examination?
Usually a dentist will ask some general questions on your child’s diet and any rising concerns.
He will then proceed to look under the areas of gums, teeth, checking for any possble decay.
After that, the dentist will proceed to do a simple clean up.
The purpose of a first visit is to establish good habits and not so much any complicated dental works.
Age-appropriate tooth and gum cleaning, along with a fluoride varnish application and dental x-rays, can also be done.
The first visit is also full of conversation.
The dentist will ask about health information, diet, and habits, such as brushing teeth, feedings, and pacifier or thumb/finger sucking.
Caring for your baby’s oral health goes beyond just cleaning their teeth and gums; also building healthy dental habits from the start.
Booking a favorable time slot
Book a favorable time slot, preferably one that your child is most calm and not fussy. That could be avoiding nap times and meal times.
Perhaps getting the first slot in the morning may work, before you get the rest of the other patients coming in, and the waiting time gets longer if you have a later appointment.
Tip #2 Reading a book
How to talk to your child about dental visit.
The best way for a child to learn is to see it as an example in you. If they have followed you to the dentist in my first tip above, now you can share why the need to see a dentist through story books.
Below are some suggested books for yound children. Get them early to help your children understand through print and stories.
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The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain
Sister Bear watches Dr. Bearson fill Brother Bear’s small cavity. Then it’s her turn in the chair to have a dangling baby tooth removed. An entertaining story for preschoolers of a cheerful and informative visit to a dentist.
A special book to help children get used to the idea of a dentist’s visit.
Curious George Visit the dentist by H.A. Rey
Curious George bites into a shiny apple made of wax and his tooth begin to hurt. When George shows his wiggly tooth to the man with the yellow hat, he takes George to the dentist.
It’s his first time, and George is nervous, but he overcomes his fear and learns about better dental hygiene–with a little good-natured mayhem on the side!
With art in the style of H. A. Rey, this engaging story will show young readers that there is nothing scary about wobbly teeth and that a visit to the dentist can actually be fun! Includes activities and information about healthy teeth, plus a sheet of stickers to celebrate good brushing habits or a successful dentist visit.
- Visiting the Dentist by Healthy Living
Learn what the dentist does to make sure your teeth stay healthy. The book utilizes social emotional based text to get children comfortable with reading, and uses the Whole Language approach to literacy, a combination of sight words and repetition builds recognition and confidence.
Bold, colorful photographs correlate directly to text to help guide readers through the book.
For more choices on Books for reading on First Visit to the dentists, see this list.
Tip #3 Watch a Video With Them
Children being tiny can be easily overwhelmed when present in the dental office.
The long over sized chair, the dentist in white coat with all these shiny trays of sharp equipment. The high overhead lamps and the strong smell of disinfectants.
Try to picture these from your child’s point of view, so that you can calm their anxieties.
Watch a Youtube with them to show them how friendly the check up will be.
If they have been a doctor when they were ill, this is likely no different from that. Except that, this is a tooth doctor.
Tip #4 Play Pretend Dentist at Home
Children are imaginative, so play a game of “Pretend Dentist”, after reading story books and watching the video above.
Have a soft toothbrush ready, even wear a glove to complete the look.
Have them lay on a couch and let them be comfortable.
Start with counting on your fingers, and then say you will now count their teeth.
Use your finger to gently guide from tooth to tooth, and counting aloud.
Give them praises and keep the session short. You can even demonstrate on their toy if they are not keen to open their mouth.
Take turns and let them play the dentist.
At this point, ask them which favourite toy they would like to bring for the dentist visit.
Tip #5 have them pack their bag for the dental visit
You can give them a small backpack and let them prepare their dentist visit bag.
The items can include
- story book
- favourite toy
- activity coloring sheets (blank or completed ones)
- a favourite snack (that they can have, after the visit)
- water bottle
They will feel excited and look postively to the visit as they would feel they are in control of what they can bring in their own bag.
Tip #6 Mark on a Calendar
Mark the date on a Calendar, and make a countdown for it, by crossing out the days leading to it.
You can talk about it a few days before it, and the day before it.
Tip #7 Plan the Place or Restaurant to go after the visit
Have them decide what they want to wear for the day (have it placed on the side chair the night before).
Next suggest a place they like to go after the dental visit.
It could be a park or playground.
This is so that they can look forward, and hopefully get them in a cooperative mood.
On the Day Of Dentist Appointment
Tip #8 Arrive early
If you have managed to get the first appointment of the day, do arrive 15 minutes earlier.
Avoid the traffic jams and the anxieties that being late will cause.
By being early, you may be able to catch the receptionists and dentist getting ready to start the day.
Your child would have his bag with him, and he can start doing the coloring activity when waiting.
Tip #9 Greet the Dentist
Enter the dentist’s office with a smile and greet the dentist.
Do not force your child to greet if they are not willing.
Let the dentist do the ice-breaking.
If you have chosen a good pediatric dentist, they will do a good job.
He may ask you a few questions about any concerns that you may have for your child.
After sharing what he will check on, he will then invite your child to sit on the chair.
All your readings to him about how the dentist chair “will prepare him to fly up” will now come into his mind.
Stay calm and positive, and stay engaged with the dentist as he goes through the examination.
Some dentist office have televisions installed on ceilings too, with cartoons playing.
Tip #10 Thank the Dentist
Now that the visit is over, hopefully, you get the good news of no decay spotted.
You can say a good thank you and get your child to wave goodbye.
Then you can be on your way to your treat.
Tip #11 Keep up the healthy toothbrushing habits
You can continue the good oral care habits at home with these ideas so that your child will ace the next dentist visit.
Set up toothbrushing reminders and incentives for success in getting the habits started.
Give healthy snacks and plenty of plain water.
This is to ensure that the next dental visit will also be a pleasant one.
My Son’s First Dental Visit
I remember I only took my sons to see a dentist when they were 5 years old. Kind of late, I know.
Because I was trying to save money, because a normal check at a dentist can cost almost $80 with no subsidies.
Upon seeing the dentists, they did not receive full marks, but the dentist was very nice to give us a useful lesson on toothbrushing.
And free toothbrush!
Summing up Making Your Child’s visit to the Dentist A Happy One
By following the above advice, you will be able to adequately prepare your little one for his first milestone.
You have a important job of starting your child right on his dental journey and I am here to help you.
Over to You
When did you take your child to the dentist for the first time? Did you leave it too late?
Tell me about it. I love to hear!