Setting Your Child’s Expectations for a First Visit to the Dentist

For most children, their first visit to the dentist can be a little intimidating if they don’t know what to expect. A dental office with all its unfamiliar equipment, weird sounds, and people in masks can cause some apprehension. One of the main things parents can do to help alleviate their children’s anxieties about visiting the dentist is to begin their dental check-ups around the time the first tooth appears or by their first birthday. These visits not only give the dentist a chance to check for tooth decay or any potential oral health problems, but they also give your child a chance to become familiar with the dentist and the dental office.

For older children who are not as familiar with dentists or dental offices, some additional preparation may be needed to help calm any fears they may have regarding their first check-up. The following are Dr. Cobb’s “Top Ten Things Parents can do Prior to a Child’s First Dentist Visit.”

  • Always remember to remain positive when discussing the upcoming dentist visit with your child
  • Use positive terminology when promoting the benefits of healthy teeth and gums
  • Speak to your own dentist about pediatric dentistry and any specific needs your child may have
  • Introduce your child to the dentist and hygienist before the dental appointment
  • Take a tour of the dental office so your child can become familiar with the dental equipment and surroundings
  • Make your child an active participant in their own dental health by teaching proper oral hygiene habits at home and getting them used to a toothbrush and dental floss
  • Use the internet to find videos or other fun, engaging material about pediatric dentistry and oral health care that your child will enjoy
  • Take your child along to one of your own dental check-ups to observe
  • Always take your child to a pediatric dentist as they have specialized training in the treatment of children’s teeth
  • Lastly, remember to reward good behavior (preferably sugar-free)

Teaching your child the benefits of good oral healthcare can be a fun and rewarding experience for both the parent and the child. There will always be some anxiety or reservations about new, untried experiences with your child. Remember, one of the best ways to help deal with a child’s anxiety about visiting the dentist is to stay positive yourself! Kids can pick up on their parent’s own anxieties, especially if they also have any preconceived notions about visiting the dentist. It’s always best to remain positive and keep communications open. There will be numerous questions to be answered. Discussing these questions in a calm, informative manner will help them feel more secure about their first and any subsequent dental check-ups.

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