We know going to the dentist for the first time can be a little scary. Hey, even adults get nervous about the prospect sometimes! For children, a lot of this is just a fear of the unknown. There are a number of steps you can take to help alleviate these jitters, and you can rest assured that your child’s first dental visit will be short and won’t involve intensive or painful procedures. These first appointments are mainly for our dentists to build comfort and trust with your child, as well as to familiarize themselves with your child’s dental needs. No matter if your child is 7, 10, 16, or older, if they are feeling anxious about or want to prepare for their upcoming dental visit at Children’s Dental Center, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading below for 10 helpful tips to prepare your child for their first dental visit.
- Choose the right dentist
Here at Children’s Dental Center, we pride ourselves in providing specialized, quality dental care specifically to children of all ages and those with unique healthcare needs. Our warm, compassionate staff and clean, comfortable office make for a pleasant and comforting experience for even the most nervous children.
Our dentists are Diplomates for, members of, and otherwise certified by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry (ABPD), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), and other high-level national dental associations, meaning that they’ve been endorsed to provide skillful, knowledgeable care for your child. By making an appointment with Dr. Rowland, Dr. Selecman, Dr. Daniel, Dr. Greene, or Dr. Harris at Children’s Dental Center, you’re giving your child the gift of capable, compassionate care from qualified experts.
- Tell them what to expect
Typically, a child’s first visit to Children’s Dental Center gives your child an opportunity to check out our office and meet our team in a friendly and casual way. During the exam, one of our dentists will check all of your child’s existing teeth for decay, examine your child’s bite, and look for any potential problems with the gums, jaw, and oral tissues. We may also clean the teeth and assess the need for fluoride. Other topics we might touch on with you and your child during this initial visit include:
- Good oral hygiene practices for your child’s teeth and gums, and for cavity prevention
- Oral habits, such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and lip sucking
- Developmental milestones and dental issues
- Proper nutrition for healthy teeth
- Scheduling dental checkups
Don’t forget to be positive during this whole process! Try to describe the upcoming appointment in as positive terms as you can. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the dentist, don’t let it show in front of your kid, as they could easily pick up on your dental anxiety. Avoid talking about any bad experiences or impending procedures you have coming up. Always use positive terms to talk about the dentist.
- Schedule your appointment for the right time
Young children tend to do their best in the morning when they are fresh and full of energy. Avoid scheduling appointments late in the day or close to nap times when children can be groggy or cranky.
You can inquire if it is possible for you and your child to come to the office for a tour and to meet the doctor before the actual day of the checkup. If your child has any special needs, discuss it with the staff member that schedules your appointment. The dentist will often want a little extra time scheduled for this.
- Think about special accommodations for your child
Does your child have a special song that they like, a favorite toy, or a movie that calms them down? Even a color or phrase that helps them relax? If so, let our doctors know ahead of time, and they will be happy to incorporate them into your child’s visit.
- Help your child mentally prepare
There are many techniques to help your child prepare for their first dental visit. In some cases, we recommend not telling them about the appointment until the day of, so that there’s as little time as possible for their imaginations to run wild with nerves. We don’t want to surprise your children with an appointment, but it can help avoid them getting too spun up with anxious thinking before their appointment.
In any case, children learn best when they are having fun. You can practice giving their stuffed animal a checkup with a toy mirror to help them think through the visit. Your child could even bring that same stuffed animal to the dental visit to get a check-up by the dentist.
There are many children’s books that address the topic of a child’s first dentist’s appointment. We recommend:
- Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer)
- Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig)
- Elmo Visits the Dentist by P.J. Shaw
There are also many child-appropriate videos online about first visits to the dentist, usually as a dentist talking to your child about what they can expect. These are great resources for children of all ages who may be anxious about their first visit and what might happen to them.
- Use positive reinforcement
If your child is afraid of the dentist and they’re feeling anxious about their first dental visit, let them know it’s completely normal to be nervous about something they haven’t done before and offer plenty of positive reinforcement by praising them for conquering their fears and being brave.
- Put them at ease with pre- and post-planning
When talking to your child about their upcoming trip to the dentist, you can assure them that there won’t be any shots or painful procedures at this visit and that the dentist will simply examine their teeth and talk to them about how to keep their teeth healthy.
Let them know that the dentist will show them all of the tools and explain all of the procedures before starting. You can also plan a reward, such as a trip to the park or toy store, for after their appointment should they need a little extra motivation—but try to avoid candy or junk food!
- Show up early and help your child relax
Whether you give them a small, healthy snack that won’t stick to or discolor their teeth, play their favorite song in the car, or whatever other strategy you may have, do your best to help them stay in a good, relaxed mood on the day of and during the drive over. Give yourself plenty of time to get to our office—although our convenient Everett location means we probably aren’t far from your home, work, or school, we can’t control traffic, and nothing’s more stressful than being late to an appointment. Save yourself the stress by leaving early, so you and your child can comfortably relax in our welcoming and fun waiting room. Generally, we recommend arriving 10 minutes before the dental visit start time, so you have time to prepare additional paperwork and settle your child in before the appointment begins.
- Don’t stress during the visit
As pediatric dentists, we’ve seen it all, so if your child isn’t compliant or cries at the visit, it’s completely fine and you shouldn’t stress about it. It happens and every visit gets easier. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, draw attention to everything that went right. Tell them how proud you are about the positive aspects of the appointment and think up ways to overcome the negative things together.
- Anticipate follow-up visits
That wasn’t so bad, was it? Help your child prepare for next time by discussing the visit with your child and reminding them of the positive things that happened. These could include the fact that nothing hurt, there were no shots, the dentist was funny, that the receptionist let them pick a sticker, or anything else as you see fit!
Trust the experienced pediatric dentists at Children’s Dental Center to treat your child’s smile!
If it’s time for your child’s first dental visit, Children’s Dental Center would be honored to see you. Though you’re welcome to use our 10 tips to prepare your child for their first dental visit, you can rest assured that our talented team is well-versed in providing quality, specialized care to infants, children, adolescents, and everyone in-between. We provide compassionate care and a positive dental experience to patients in Everett and the surrounding area, and we are proud to help create happy, healthy smiles for every child we treat. Get in touch with us today to schedule your child’s first dental visit, and let us walk you both through the process with kindness, patience, and a gentle hand.