How to Prepare Your Child for His First Visit with the Pediatric Dentist

As a parent, it’s exciting to see your child experience their first milestones. But when it’s something that might be scary — like seeing a dentist for the first time — there are ways to help the process go as smoothly as possible. Here are a few techniques to put your child (and yourself) at ease:


Practice “Going to the Dentist” at Home


Have your child get their favorite stuffed animal and practice “brushing” their teeth.  Next, take turns laying on the floor (or couch) to look inside each other’s mouths. Ask your child to “open wide” as you make remarks about how white their teeth are, then count each tooth one by one. If your child is comfortable, you can pretend to touch the teeth with the eraser-end of a pencil, the blunt end of a toothbrush, or the handle of a plastic spoon — anything that’s safe and helps them get comfortable with someone looking in their mouth!


Use Positive Language


It can be tempting to say things like “it won’t hurt” or “don’t be afraid” but both of those sentences have negative words (“hurt” and “afraid”) in them, which can trigger anxiety in young children. Instead, stick to positive language like “it might tickle” or leave the explaining to your pediatric dentist and his or her team. After all, they’re the experts!


Read a Book


There are plenty of books available online and in the library about trips to the doctor, pediatric dentist, etc. Reading them with your child can help him understand what comes next once it’s time to make the trip themselves.


Go as a Family


Depending on the age and temper of your child — and how healthy your own mouth is — it may be worthwhile to have someone help hold your little one to watch you get your teeth cleaned or examined by the dentist. Seeing a parent (or sibling) go through the motions of a dental visit can lessen some of the fear your child may have. If you’re booking everyone’s appointments on the same day, have your child watch another family member go first.


Schedule the Appointment Early in the Morning


While there’s an exception to every rule, children tend to do better at the pediatric dentist when they are well rested. Most dental offices will suggest scheduling your child’s appointment first thing in the morning, just after they’ve had a modest breakfast.


Start While They’re Small


Pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend that all children should have a dental checkup by the time they turn a year old. Early visits are easier and less traumatic for young children, allowing them to grow up with a sense of familiarity with the dental staff as opposed to waiting to see a dentist because of an emergency or other painful condition. Routine checkups from an early age can help shape the way your child “sees” the dentist in the future.


If your child has special medical or behavioral needs, be sure to talk to the pediatric dentist or their team about your concerns. They will be more than happy to make accommodations for your family.

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