Unfortunately, some people just don’t like going to the dentist! For children especially, just the idea of their first visit at first can be a very uncomfortable thought. Just imagining sitting in a big chair, in an unfamiliar room, having a bright light shone in their face with a stranger prodding areas of their mouth, can be frightening especially if it is a child’s first time or they have had a treatment in the past that was less-than-fun.
At the Kidds Place, our dentists and dental assistants are trained to make your child feel as comfortable and safe as possible during their visits with us. Pediatric dentistry is recommended for a growing child because oral health and overall health are directly linked during child development. A Pediatric dentist is required an extra 2-3 years of schooling specific to little teeth and little mouths that an adult dentist may not. Because regular cleanings can be so pertinent to a child’s quality of life, we set children overcoming their dentist fears at a high priority. Yet despite our efforts, we understand some children are more sensitive to new experiences than others.
It is recommended by the American Dental Association that a child have their first dentist appointment before they reach age 1 – after the first tooth emerges, but no later than their first birthday. This means that there is a chance that by the time a child is old enough to know what going to the dentist means, they may not be able to recall the experience of their first time.
When this is the case, remind them beforehand of their next visit with positivity. Try not to go into too much detail. If they ask a more specific question, say something like, “Doctor ____ is going to be cleaning your teeth!” If your child has reached toddlerhood and either does not remember their first visit, or it is their very first time, some experts even suggest going into the office prior to the appointment so the child will see a face they recognize at their next visit. If you call ahead, most offices will let you go in and meet the dentist that will be treating your child.
Another suggestion for parents to try at home is by doing a “pretend” examination. Place your child in a recliner, tell them to open wide, and count their teeth one at a time with the end of a toothbrush. It will acclimate them to the sensation of someone else touching their teeth.
The younger a child has regular visits to the dentist, the better. It provides a “dental home” and builds trust. It is stated that kids may go an average of ten times to the dentist before they even begin kindergarten. That’s a lot! That means they may see the dentist before age 6 more frequently than they see their distant relatives!
Comfort and Reassurance
If your child is still uneasy, bring along an item that is calming and familiar, like a stuffed animal, to your next appointment. (Although we’re certain that once they see the inside of the Kidd’s Place, they will get distracted by all the neat stuff we have!) If it’s your child’s first time and they need a little extra comfort, it is not unheard of that the practicing dentist will allow your child to lay on your lap while they are examined if a situation calls for it.
When speaking about the dentist, even your own personal experiences, avoid using trigger words like “hurt” and “pain”, even if you are saying to your child, “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt!” Their mind will focus on the word “hurt” which can lead to confusion and unnecessary fear. Being scared of something can be a learned behavior, and if you as a parent do not like the dentist, it is best to not taint the view your child may already have or one that is being developed in their mind. Most of the time, a child’s first few visits rarely include a treatment such as a filling or a cap, especially if they have a proper dental routine at home. If a child takes good care of their teeth, normally there is nothing of discomfort to fear at the dentist.
For any additional questions or concerns, contact our office. If you are still considering our practice, read our incredible reviews of our friendly and welcoming staff. We’re voted the best by many for calming fears and positive experiences for kids!