7 things to know before your child’s first dental visit
Throughout my years of practice, I know many people associate dental visits with "fear". Parents usually do get nervous about their child's first dental visit. Well, try not to show it to your child. The very first rule is not to instill fear in the child even before the child had experienced his/her first dental visit. Every child's reaction to dental visits vary. Naturally, some children are more timid than others so they may take a while to warm up while there are some who are more easygoing in nature, breezing through their first dental experience like they've done it many times. Many of us believe in preparing the child for his or her first dental visit but how do we go about it? Here are some tips before making that first trip to the dental office with your little ones:
1. Pick some child-friendly dental books to read to your child, such as "The Tooth Book by Dr Seuss" or "Peppa Pig: Dentist Trip" which can help explain what dentistry is to children. You can also do a bit of role play with your child with some dentist toys. There are many short videos online and app games (eg Little Lovely Dentist, Christmas Dentist Doctor) to play with your child too. Choose non-intimidating books, toys or games and portray positive vibes for dental visits to your child.
2. Arrange for your child's first dental visit at the age of 1 year old. Avoid bringing your child to see the dentist only after the child complains of a toothache. A child in pain will heighten the anxiety level.
3. Pick a suitable time for the dental appointment when your child would normally be awake and not grouchy. You wouldn't want to choose a time when your child usually naps.
4. Please avoid reassuring or "preparing" your child by saying things such as "Don't worry, the dentist is not going to give you an injection" or "It's not going to be pain" or worse, "If you don't behave at the dental clinic, I'll ask the dentist to pull out your teeth". These would only make the child worry unnecessarily of what is to come at the dental clinic. Also, dentists are humans who crave for affection so please don't make us out to be cruel beings. We want to shower our patients with good care and hope that our patients would love us too!
5. If you have any concerns about your child, do let the dental team know ahead of the appointment. No concern is trivial so don't be afraid to have a frank discussion with the dentist if you feel that it may help your child have a better experience at the dental clinic.
6. Bring along your child's toothbrush and toothpaste and perhaps even his/her favourite toy if he/she prefers for the first dental visit. Some familiarity may help the child to feel more comfortable.
7. A pleasant first experience at the dentist's is very important because it sets the tone for the child's future dental visit. So do expect short, simple procedures only like counting and cleaning teeth to be done at the first visit. Unless an emergency, dentists do not want to introduce drills, unpleasant sounds or injections at the first dental visit. Nothing is worse than overwhelming the child and subsequently making any future dental visits impossible.