To a small child, visiting an unknown place can be scary. Strangers are strange. Add a weird chair, people poking in your mouth and loud noises – its no wonder some kids are afraid of the dentist!
Although a trip to the dentist will never compare with Disneyland, with preparation it can be a smooth and positive experience for both parents and kids.
Today, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children visit the dentist by age 1 or within six months after his or her first tooth erupts. Those early visits are important to set the stage for proper oral hygiene habits. Also, starting early can help reduce anxiety and fear in the future.
There are steps you can take before the visit to prepare your child. Below are some helpful guidelines:
Choose an office that specializes in pediatric dentistry – Not only are pediatric dentists used to dealing with kids’ fears and anxieties, they are specialists trained to deal with common childhood issues such as finger sucking, tooth decay from bottles, etc. Not to mention, pediatric dentist offices are more fun! They usually have games or activities in the waiting room, cool kid-sized glasses and “prizes” at the end. They cater toward kids, and believe us – have seen it all!
Provide relevant medical information – If your child has any specific needs or medical concerns, let the dentist office know ahead of time. Whether it is allergies, anxieties, finger-sucking or other oral habits, the more information they have the better. Don’t worry, the dentist isn’t there to judge – he or she simply wants to provide the best care for your child.
“Practice” at home – Before the visit, practice brushing with your child so she is comfortable having a toothbrush in her mouth. You can even “play” dentist with a teddy bear or doll. Helping kids understand what to expect can make the visit less intimidating.
Bring a favorite blanket or toy – If your child has a favorite toy or lovey, by all means bring it along! He’ll feel more comfortable and safe having something familiar to hold.
Complete forms in advance – If possible, complete any necessary paperwork ahead of time. Doing so will allow you to focus on your child in the waiting room instead of filling out forms.
Finally, go in to the first visit prepared, but with an open mind. Your child may surprise you and LOVE the dentist. Or he may have a tantrum. A good pediatric dental staff is trained to handle all situations in a calm, professional manner. Your child’s comfort and health is a top priority.