By Melodie Veldhuizen
If you find a visit to the dentist to be a stressful event, just think how scary especially the first visit must be for a child. However, this need not be the case. If you prepare your child thoroughly, the first visit to the dentist and all the ensuing appointments won’t be something that scares the living daylights out of your child. Experts give advice.
- Dentists recommend that you take your baby for a routine examination as soon as possible after the first tooth has made its appearance, or at least before she is one year old. The first appointment affords the dentist the opportunity to show you exactly how to brush your baby’s/infant’s/toddler’s teeth, propose a teeth health programme and give advice about meals and snacks that are healthy for her teeth. It also provides the opportunity to notice early problems and correct them in time. The earlier the appointment, the more problems might later probably be avoided. Follow the dentist’s advice and instructions meticulously.
- If possible, take her to a paediatric dentist. Usually their consulting rooms and equipment are child-friendly. Otherwise, take her to your family dentist, provided you trust him.
- Read storybooks to her beforehand and show her pictures/photos of children at the dentist’s. YouTube is also an excellent source of visual information.
- If possible, she could at first visit the dentist together with Mom or Dad or a brother or sister. Only do this if you yourselves aren’t anxious about the visit. You don’t want your own fear to put her off.
- Tell her what to expect – that a gentleman/lady wearing a mask will help her to always have a pretty and healthy smile; that she will sit on a high chair and that the dentist will look inside her mouth with shiny instruments to see if her teeth and gums are healthy. Don’t say, “It won’t hurt.” This will create the impression that a dentist is someone that could hurt her and can cause fear.
- Don’t make a fuss of the visit – let her experience it as something positive and normal and as part of her routine.
- Take along a favourite toy, cuddly blanket, or a book to put her at ease.
- Schedule the appointment for a time when she isn’t tired or hungry. Be in time so that she can get acquainted with the surroundings at a leisurely pace. Don’t give her caffeine or sugar shortly before the appointment.
- Brush her teeth thoroughly before the appointment.
- If, in spite of your preparation and the dentist and his assistant’s best efforts she is anxious and upset and won’t co-operate, let it rather stand over until another time.
- Reward her for her cooperation – of course with something besides sweets or ice-cream. A new toy or a trip to her favourite kiddie’s park is the ideal way to spoil her.
- Mom, Dad, inspect her mouth regularly, so that she can get used to it before the dentist does it. You will do it out of curiosity in any case to see if a new tooth might not be the cause of her being irritable.
- Make dental care fun: Maintain an age-appropriate dental care routine even prior to the first visit to the dentist. Make it fun, so that she won’t consider it to be a chore – let her look in the mirror while she brushes her teeth as well as afterwards. Let her brush her teeth to the beat of music. Teach her songs and rhymes and read stories about teeth, toothbrushes and the dentist. Buy her coloured toothpaste and funny toothbrushes. The more exciting you make it for young kids, the more readily will they continue this routine.
- Be a role-model for good oral and dental hygiene at all times.
Dentistry Just For Kids. http://www.dentistryjust4kids.com/blog/how-to-prepare-your-child-for-their-first-dental-visit/
NC Pediatric Dentistry. https://ncpediatricdentistry.com/kids-first-dentist/
Reader’s Digest Best Health. https://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/oral-health/7-tips-for-your-childs-first-dentist-visit/
SALA Family Dentistry. https://www.salafamilydentistry.com/tips-preparing-child-first-dental-visit/
West Chester Dental Arts. http://www.wcdentalarts.com/blog/how-to-prepare-for-your-childs-first-trip-to-the-dentist