Your Child’s First Dental Visit: 10 Tips to Eliminate Their Fear

When you’re growing up, a lot of things can be a little scary – the first day at a new school, booster shots from your Pediatrician, and yes, even visits to see your dentist. Dentist visits are one of those things that kids know is necessary but are sometimes afraid of. They hear horror stories around the lunch table about having their mouths drilled into, shots put into their gums, and their mouths picked at by sharp tools. Even if these stories are a bit exaggerated, kids naturally expect one of these painful experiences at their next dentist appointment! They don’t understand how little they need to worry about those things when they visit the dentist. At Children’s Dental Center we want your kids to feel as comfortable as possible when seeing our dentists. To make the whole process a little less scary, we’ve come up with a list of 10 tips.

1. Start early

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry encourages bringing your child for their first dental visit when their first tooth erupts or when they turn one year old, whichever comes first. The earlier their dental visits start, the sooner we can catch problems. That means less pain in the future for any procedures they might need, which in turn can keep anxiety at bay.

2. Communication is essential

Most kids get scared because they don’t know what to expect from going to the dentist’s office. Read a book about the dentist’s office to them, or share your own positive dental experiences. If you act excited about the dentist yourself, your kids will feel that they have little to fear. Preparing them for the dentist will keep them more comfortable when going for visits.

3. Don’t mention the scary stuff

This one is a no-brainer. Obviously, you don’t want to tell your child about certain procedures that happen at the dentist office, especially if they’re already reluctant to go. If your child needs a particular procedure done that might be a little bit worrisome, talk to them about it and make sure they know what will happen. Also, mention that there are numbing creams that dentists give to patients so that they won’t feel a thing. Even better, with the new technology offered in pediatric dental offices these days, it’s not scary at all!

4. Stop by before the appointment

Drop in a few days before the appointment so that your child can have a look around and meet some of the staff to familiarize themselves with the office before they have to go in. It’s best that they feel comfortable with the people they will see at the office so that there is a sense of familiarity before their official visit.

5. Make it fun!

teenage girl laughing and having fun

Bring a stuffed toy or a book that is familiar to your child that they can have with them if they have to spend any time in the waiting room. If you have a calendar in a family room, mark the date of the appointment with colorful markers or put stickers on it to make it seem more exciting. At Children’s Dental Center, we also have coloring books, video games, and movies playing to make the environment more fun and inviting.

6. Avoid bribery

This is a very common mistake; parents will try to bribe their kids with a toy or treat to have good behavior before visiting the dentist. They’ll say something even as (seemingly) harmless as “If you go, I’ll take you to get ice cream after.” The problem with this is that kids can be very intuitive, and when they hear that, they think, “There must be a reason that I wouldn’t want to go if I get something later.” If you want to reward your child for their good behavior at the dentist, avoid making promises like that until after their appointment is over. That way, they won’t be anxious to go beforehand since they weren’t bribed before the appointment.

7. Find the right dentist

paper with a question mark written on it

Kids feel much more comfortable with going to the dentist when they like the dentist they’re going to see! It’s best to take your child to a pediatric dentist because pediatric dentists are specialists in treating kids. Additionally, they use smaller instruments and typically have brightly colored offices with plenty of things for kids to look at while they’re waiting as well as books and videos and other toys for them to play with. Pediatric dental offices are prepared to work with anxious children and even children with special needs to make it an all-around better experience.

8. Let the dentist know

If your child is scared of the dentist, make it known to the dentist and staff. That way, our doctors can make sure that they react to the child in a way that would ensure that the child is more comfortable with being in the chair.

9. Have a friend or family member help

If you are too anxious to go to the dentist yourself or take your child to the dentist, ask your spouse, another family member, or family friend to help make them. The worst thing you can do while taking a child somewhere like the dentist is showing your worry over going as well. It can make the child feel even more uneasy.

10. And of course be positive!

Children take cues from their parents. A study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry found that if one family member was anxious about going to the dentist, that fear was typically passed onto other members. Interestingly enough, children took cues from their fathers on whether or not the dentist was something to be feared. Sometimes parents project their worries about visiting the dentist to their children. So regardless of your fears of the dentist, try and make this experience for your child a fun one. Teach them that there is nothing to fear, and again, don’t mention painful procedures. Try and focus on the fact that they will have clean and healthy teeth after visiting!

At Children’s Dental Center we understand how important it is for your child to have the right pediatric dentist. We take pride in the highest standard of dental care for infants, children, teens, and special needs patients in an environment that were created with them in mind! If you have a child that needs a dentist appointment but is anxious to visit, please bring them to Children’s Dental Center! We have locations in Collierville, Midtown, and Arlington or give us a call at 901.861.9668. We look forward to seeing you!