Your kids are growing up faster than you can imagine. It seemed like just yesterday you were bringing them home. Now they’re walking, talking, and sprouting teeth, which means it’s time to take them to the dentist for the first time. This thought fills you with some worry. How will your child respond to the dentist?
You haven’t exactly enjoyed going to the dentist and you don’t want your children to fear the experience as much as you do. You want your kids to start on the right foot immediately.
Here are some things you can do to plan for your child’s first dental visit and ensure it becomes an expected, appreciated, and enjoyed part of their oral health routine.
You should take your children to the dentist for the first time within six months of cutting their first tooth or turning one year old. That may seem early, but by starting young, you are establishing good oral hygiene habits during the most formative years of growth.
At the same time, it’s helpful to have a pediatric dentist teach you proper brushing strokes for a baby’s teeth. Starting early also means your pediatric dentist can watch for problems—and help correct them.
“Play” Dentist at Home
Playing dentist is a great technique as children get older. It can help expose them to the idea of going to the dentist. But when your child is just a baby, the play will be less impactful. Still, by getting your baby used to having fingers poking their mouth while at home, you can better prepare for that first visit.
Start by wiping down your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth after eating. You can also stimulate the mouth with a small, soft brush. By learning to accept this prodding when mom does it, your baby will be ready for the professionals.
Learn By Seeing
For some kids, accompanying you to the dentist is a great way to say, “See? Mommy and daddy do it and there’s nothing to it!” Of course, there are several caveats to this situation.
First, will your children be seeing your dentist or will you be taking them to a pediatric dental specialist? Is your dental office kid friendly enough to keep them entertained?
Most importantly—how do you respond to a dentist visit? If you fear the experience, it’s best to protect your child from your feelings. They will pick up on how you feel about the dentist, so work hard to project positive feelings about dentistry and oral hygiene.
Prep at Home
If your child is a bit older, make sure to create lots of space to talk about the dentist before going. Let your child ask questions and answer as honestly as you can. Talk to your child about what to expect and use colourful language they can understand to explain the procedures. It’s best to avoid negative connotation terms, such as “drilling” and “pain”; kids are intelligent and pick up on how you talk about the dentist. This is a great time to bring in dentist-positive books and games. “I think Ms. Snuffle Bear wants to have her teeth examined…”
Regular visits to the dentist are an important part of every child’s health. Make sure you time visits appropriately (i.e., when you know your child is feeling good), stay positive about the experience, and just be there for them. In no time, your kids will be asking you excitedly, “When’s my next dentist visit?”