IS THERE ANYTHING better than the smile of a happy child? To a parent, not much comes close. An important part of keeping those smiles healthy and bright is regular visits to the dentist, so we want to offer some tips for parents who are bringing a child in for their first dental checkup. A good first visit helps establish a positive mindset towards the dentist and puts a child on the path towards lifelong good dental health habits and decisions.
Kids Can Get Dental Anxiety Too
One-third of American adults avoid going to the dentist because of dental anxiety, and it can affect kids too. Many things that are new can be scary for them, and they might already have a negative impression of the dentist’s office thanks to what peers and family members have told them. They are also very observant, so if Mom and Dad have dental anxiety, they might feel like they have a reason to be afraid of the dentist as well.
Tips for Helping Your Child Have a Good Perspective on Dentists
There are a few things parents can do to make sure their child comes to their first dental appointment with a positive, relaxed outlook.
- Make an early start. Your child doesn’t need a full mouth of baby teeth before they can come to the dentist; in fact, they can come as soon as the first tooth appears! By starting early, it’s also easier to build a trusting relationship with the dentist and get into an easy routine of dental care.
- Explain by playing pretend. It can be tricky to explain something new to a very young child, but playing pretend can help. Play the part of the dentist and give them an idea of what to expect and show them that it can be fun, not scary.
- For older children, simply explain. Children are much happier when they understand what’s happening ahead of time. For old enough children, a simple explanation of what dental visits are like will be very reassuring.
- Teach them the value of dental hygiene. When kids understand how important it is to brush and floss and they are proud of keeping their smiles healthy, they can better appreciate the dentist.
- Set up a meeting with the dentist. One reason the first visit to the dentist can be so stressful for a child is that this is a stranger. Avoid the problem altogether by scheduling a meet-and-greet in advance!
- Be there for your child. No amount of information can substitute for having a trusted and loved adult nearby. Be ready to give all your support and encouragement during the first few visits.
Final Tip: Choose a Pediatric Dentist
One of the best things parents can do to introduce their children to professional dental care the right way is choose a pediatric dentist for them. A pediatric dentist has special training for working with children and kid-friendly offices. Starting out with a dentist who knows how to work with kids will help ensure that your child is comfortable and confident when going to the dentist.