The First Trip to the Dentist can be as scary for parents as it is for children since parents don’t know how their child will react.
New people, bizarre instruments, loud noises, and someone wanting to take a look inside your mouth can be an odd combination for anyone.
However, a child’s first dental visit is as important as a first doctor’s visit. Parents’ efforts to make it as enjoyable as possible are worthy since “fear to the dentist” has been associated with higher rates of cavities and missing appointments later in life.
To help you start off on the right foot, here are several ways you can help your children (and yourself) to be at ease during the first visit to the dentist.
– Take your children to one of your own dental checkups, if possible. This will help them understand what is it like to go to the dentist and see that someone will be working on your teeth without doing any harm.
– Talk to your children about what’s going to happen at the dentist. Use a mirror to look your children’s mouth, show them their teeth and touch them with a pointed instrument, like the bottom of their toothbrush. Explain that the dentist will want to check their teeth too.
– Play pretend dentist. Take turns examining each other’s teeth and mouth so your children get familiar with the feel of a dental examination.
– Read books with dentist related stories and create your own stories to shape how a successful visit should be.
– Look for a dentist who can make children feel comfortable. A friendly and patient dentist will make a huge difference.
– Your children’s first dental appointment will have a better chance of flowing better if it is scheduled in a time when children are not usually tired. If possible, avoid before naps and evening appointments.
– Stay calm. Anxious parents might convey negative feelings to their children. If you are stressed out, your children will feel like there’s something to worry about. Being relaxed will reassure your children that everything is okay.
– Don’t leave the examining room while your children are getting their teeth checked. Your absence could trigger an unwanted reaction from your children.
– Talk your children through their appointment. Explain each step of the checkup and make it sound fun and simple.
– If your children’s teeth need to be cleaned, show them the rotary toothbrush that will be used. Letting children see and hear the brush before it’s placed in their mouth avoids possible unexpected surprises. If the sucking straw will be used, show them how it works and explain that it will be used to remove extra toothpaste and saliva.
– Tell your children they can stop the procedure at anytime if they need to. If so, take a pause and try again.
Keep in mind that short, simple visits will help build children’s trust in the dentist, and can prove invaluable for your children’s dental care later on.
Prizes are also widely used to get kids to associate the dentist’s office with fun experiences. Allowing them to pick a prize during the appointment will help them relax and release potential tension they might be experiencing.
And don’t worry. Even if your children get anxious, scientific results have showed that the children’s level of fear decreased after treatment. So, keep up the good work and be patient.
 Stef Daniel. The First Trip to the Dentist. Everyday family
 Klingberg, Berggren, Carlsson & Noren. Child dental fear: cause‐related factors and clinical effects. 1995. European Journal of Oral Sciences.
 Fox, Isadora. Parents Magazine
 Berge M , Veerkamp J , Hoogstraten J. Dentists’ behavior in response to child dental fear. ASDC Journal of Dentistry for Children. 1999, 66(1):36-40
Laura Pacheco Bennett is a researcher and psychologist who is passionate about human development. She has worked in social projects empowering vulnerable communities and she especially loves working with children. Her experience includes over five years conducting evidence-based psychotherapy and the direction of a dependency treatment center where different approaches were tested to achieve a higher remission rate. Her background includes designing, implementing and assessing programs to develop psychological skills like assertive communication, coping with grief and loss, social skills, self-esteem, child development, effective learning, and resilience.