A stranger probing your mouth isn’t always the most comfortable thing, so it is no surprise that many are hesitant to go to the dentist. This is also true for children. While taking your baby or toddler to the dentist and having them behave can be challenging, it’s not impossible. There’s a lot you can do to prepare your child for their first dental visit.
As parents, it is your duty to keep your child’s dental health in check. However, it is common for many parents to pass up a dentist visit, not only to save themselves the trouble but also because of the belief that a toddler’s teeth aren’t permanent after all. However, just because baby teeth will eventually fall off doesn’t mean a dental check-up isn’t necessary.
Do toddlers really need a dentist?
A definite yes! While it may seem too early, starting them at a young age fosters a path to better oral health and prevents any problems that may occur during childhood. A visit to the dentist can also give you an idea of how to properly care for your kid’s teeth.
What to Expect
There may be some misconceptions about first visits, which can deter people from making an appointment. However, first visits are actually quite easy and quick. The examination and cleaning only take a few minutes. The dentist will examine your child’s mouth to see if everything is developing normally and will check for any tooth decays, tongue ties, or signs of injuries.
Most of the visit will be spent on making your child comfortable and talking to you about dental health. Your child’s dentist will also educate you about everything you must know to keep your child’s teeth healthy. These include:
- The kind of toothpaste and toothbrush to use
- Brushing and flossing techniques
- How to relieve teething discomfort
- Foods and drinks may damage the teeth
They can also answer any questions you may have about your child’s habits, such as pacifier use and thumb sucking.
Getting Ready for Your Child’s First Dental Visit
After you’ve scheduled a visit with your child’s dentist, you should now prepare them for their first visit. It is also completely normal for them to be curious about going to the dentist. What you need to remember is that this visit can turn into a positive experience if they understand that the dentist is there to help them be healthy.
So, how do I prepare my child for the dentist? Here are 6 great ways you can do to guarantee a tear-free first dental visit:
1.Start as Early as Possible
You may be wondering at what age should you first take your child to the dentist? Some would advise bringing your kid to the dentist even before they get their first tooth, but if you feel this is way too early, you can wait until the first tooth comes out.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends that you should see the dentist within 6 months of the eruption of a baby’s first tooth or by their first year. While this may surprise many parents, the goal of having their first check-up this young is to ensure that their teeth are developing properly and to identify issues early if there are any. The earlier children start going to the dentist, the more likely they get to avoid any dental problems growing up.
There’s another upside to early visits. It allows children to feel that check-ups as part of a routine or habit. One common reason why children become apprehensive of medical check-ups is that they tend to associate it with something being wrong. This could be the result of only taking them to the doctor or dentist when they’re sick. To curb this misconception, it’s best to take them before issues appear and on a regular basis after their first visit.
- 2.Mental Preparation
Dental anxiety can be prevented with proper preparation. If your child is old enough, talk to them about it and help them understand the process. You should also instill in them the importance of tooth brushing and dental health. Since children respond easily to what’s familiar, there’s a lesser chance of resistance if oral hygiene is already part of their daily routine.
There are also a couple of other things you can do at home to mentally prepare your child for a dentist visit.
- Examine Their Teeth at Home
Your kid will likely feel more comfortable having their teeth checked if she already experienced it at home. Check their mouth regularly. Even as simple as saying “Ah!” to them every after brushing can help them have a positive attitude about someone probing into their mouth.
- Let Them Tag Along
Another way of getting your children ready is through role modelling. If you are visiting a dentist, it is good to bring them along to watch while you get your teeth cleaned. If they see you are okay and optimistic, they too will feel the same way.
You can also ask the clinic if it is possible that you can visit to show your child around. This way, they become more familiar with the place and can meet the dentist before the actual check-up.
- Make It Fun and Positive
Children love it when they are having fun, and preparing them for the dentist should be too. You can practice doing check-ups with a stuffed animal, for example, and bring the same stuffed toy during your visit. You can also read books or watch shows about characters going to the dentist. Youtube has a library of those videos.
3.Put Them at Ease
Unfamiliarity and misconception about check-ups are what’s making them scared in the first place. When you talk to your kid about their upcoming dental check-up, you need to reassure them about what’s going to happen — that the dentist will simply examine and brush their teeth.
You must avoid telling them that something will hurt or it’s going to be painful. In fact, do not mention those words at all. You can also use positive reinforcement for good behaviour when you visit.
4.Time It Properly
Schedule all dentist appointments when your child is at their most comfortable. Children are normally at their best in the morning when they are fresh and energetic. Avoid scheduling visits late in the day or near nap times because kids may already feel groggy and cranky.
If possible, arrive at least an hour before your schedule. This way, your child can settle in with the new environment and may also play with toys while waiting.
5.Anticipate Follow-up Visits
How often should you go to the dentist?
After you’ve completed your first visit, take this opportunity to prepare your child for the next. Remind them of the positive things that happened, like:
- No shots!
- Nothing hurt.
- You got a reward!
- The toothbrush tickled.
- The dentist counted your teeth. How many teeth do you have?
Seeing a dentist should be a regular activity, so it is imperative that you let them associate their first experience with future dental visits.
How often should you go to the dentist? Similar to adults, children must have their dental check-up every 6 months, although some dentists may recommend visits as often as every 3 months. More visits can build a child’s comfort and confidence.
Despite your best efforts, your child can still get anxious and may be unwilling to go for a check-up, and that is okay and natural. Remember don’t force it nor blackmail them. Otherwise, they will connect this with a bad experience even before it has started. Many children start fearful, but that feeling eventually passes as soon as they meet their dentist. With preparation and regular visits, patients will eventually be calm.
Choosing the Right Dentist for Your Child
Having the right dentist for your child is as important when preparing for their first visit. Many people may take their children to the same dentist as their mom or dad’s, which is a great choice, especially if they also have experience dealing with young children. You can also consider a dentist for children. A family dentist is experienced in caring for children’s oral health. They prepared to deal with negative reactions on the dental chair and have a clinic filled with distractions, like toys, games, and books, to make their visit fun and worthwhile.
If you live in Toronto and searching for a “dentist near me,” visit Dr. Mark Rhody Dentistry, an Etobicoke Family Dentist. We ensure a warm and positive for everyone, including your little ones. We also offer a highly specialized and interactive care program for children to make learning how to care for your teeth in-between visits fun. Book an appointment now at (416) 231-4281.