by Dr Emma Coulter BDS
29th March 2023
Its vital to start bringing your child to the dentist from a young age, not only so that we can monitor their development, but also so that they can get used to the clinical surroundings. Children that go to the dentist regularly from a young age are much less likely to develop dental anxiety in their adulthood, and will assume that a visit to the dentist is just a regular part of life and nothing to be scared of.
Here at Lennox Point Dental, we advise that most kids should get their first check up appointment at around the age of 4 so that we can check on their development and also be available to you as parents for advice on anything you may have concerns about.
So how do you prepare your child for their first visit? Well, we've put together a few dos and don't as a guide so your child will actually look forward to coming to see us!
Bring your child to your exam appointments - Before their first visit, its a good idea to bring them to your check up appointments. This way they get to see what the surgery is like, we will show them some of the equipment we will use like the mirror and the air gun, as well as let them have a ride in the chair.
Practice at home - Buy a dental mirror from your local pharmacy so that you can show them what its like. Let them hold it and use it to look in their own mouths so they understand what is going to happen when they come in to see us. Check out https://youtu.be/jYmzCEyWVHM where curious George shows exactly what goes on in a dental exam.
Bring their favourite toy to their appointment - Children like to have reassurance, and we find that most kids feel more comfortable if they have their favourite teddy bear with them when they sit in the dentist chair.
Let the receptionist know what their favourite show is on Netflix - We have a tv on the ceiling in all the surgeries at our practice. If you tell the girls on the front desk ahead of time, we can get the show up and running, ready for them when they come in. That way they can watch Boss Baby, Madagascar or whatever their best show is, while they are having their teeth checked.
Bring their older siblings along - Not only is it more convenient for you as a family to bring all of the kids at the same time, but it helps with the youngest to see their big brother or sister having a clean or check up and it makes it much less scary for them.
Keep it simple - On the first visit we are really just aiming for your child to have a positive experience here. This means we will probably just count their teeth and let them have a ride in the chair. Don't expect too much from them at this early
Pass your dental anxiety on to your child - if you have had a bad experience at the dentist or are nervous yourself, it might be better if someone else brings your child for their first visit.
Tell your child scary stories about dentists - This might seem obvious but we as dentists are often faced with kids that have been told about big sharp needles and noisy drills in a bid to frighten their children into not eating lollies. This is not helpful because not only does it not work, but it also means that should they require treatment in the future, they are already terrified before it has even come up.
Tell them that going to the dentist does not hurt - Children are smart, if you tell them that going to the dentist will not hurt, they will immediately start to think " why did mum tell me its not going to hurt?" Now all they can think about is that the dentist is going to make their mouth sore. You don't tell them a visit to the hair dresser won't be painful, so why the dentist?
Wait until something is wrong before bringing them to their first visit - This is a big one. The best way to give your child long term dental anxiety is to introduce them to the dentist when they need to have treatment. Its vital that your child has a positive association with their clinician so that if they do need to have a filling in the future, they have already built up a relationship of trust. That way they are more likely to have treatment without being frightened.
Expect too much from them on the first visit - Despite your best efforts, sometimes kids are still not on their best form when they arrive. Some refuse to sit in the chair, some won't even come in the room. Don't feel bad about this, keep bringing them back every 6 months and in no time they will be brave enough to sit in the chair on their own.