“No one likes to go to the dentist” is a common saying that we hear quite often. However, Dr. Fran at Glow Pediatric Dentistry begs to differ. A positive childhood dental experience can help shape the attitude and expectations of visiting the dentist as an adult. With appropriate guidance and preparation, your child can start having memorable dentist visits. And these visits will lead to both a healthy oral hygiene and enjoyable visits for the rest of their life.

How should I prepare my child for the first dental visit?

As with most things, building an early foundation can play a major role; and you can never be too early with your child’s first dental visit. Children should have their first dental visit around their first birthday. To prepare your child, Dr. Fran recommends using age-appropriate, positive words to get them excited about their first appointment – similar to how you’d prepare your child for their first playdate. Avoid using words that may trigger fear and anxiety. When parents say phrases like “it’s not going to hurt,” children naturally start thinking, “Can this hurt and will it hurt?” Instead, encourage them by saying, “The dentist is very fun and gentle.”

Here are some positive words to use and negative words to avoid: 

Positive words: healthy, fun, strong, clean

No No words: hurt, shot, pain, needle, drill

Keep the preparation brief and simple. Overloading the little ones with too much detail often results in added anxiety. Rest assured, our team at Glow will be using age appropriate words and techniques to ease your child into their first visit without any surprises.

Pretend visits can be a great introduction to their first dental visit. Practice counting your child’s fingers and teeth in front of a mirror. If they’re interested, have them repeat the same routine on your teeth. On a daily basis, we recommend that young children should be laid down to get their teeth brushed. This will allow you to brush their teeth easily while having them get used to the dentist checking their teeth while lying on the chair. Be cautious if you want to tell them about your own dental appointments. In most cases, this may lead to describing in too much detail and negative impressions of the dentist.

Who is bringing your child to the appointment?

Children are very perceptive and can pick up their parent’s emotions quickly, which results in mirroring their parents emotions. When a parent feels nervous about bringing their child to the dentist, it’s easy for their child to feel the same. For this reason, when it comes to their first dental appointment, it may be helpful to have the child accompanied by a parent or caregiver who feels more confident and positive about the experience.

What to expect during their first visit

During your child’s first visit, we will take time to get to know your child and your family to understand your child’s unique needs. We’ll go over the growth and development of your child’s teeth and mouth and offer tips and recommendations for brushing, flossing and creating healthy oral habits. We will then clean your child’s teeth and if necessary, take radiographs. Dr. Fran will thoroughly examine your child’s mouth and discuss relevant findings. There will be plenty of time for questions, too!

After the examination has finished, we offer goodies and prizes to your brave little one. We recommend regular check-ups and cleanings every six months to build familiarity with our team and the upkeep of your child’s healthy, happy smile.

Can a dentist give you something for anxiety?

At Glow, we utilize a number of creative age-appropriate techniques to allow children to enjoy their visit. Whether it’s a quick check-up or a longer filling visit, we use a variety of ways to ease their minds. Our approach starts from attentive preparation of both you and your child and continues with happy distractions: such as TV on the ceiling, guided imagery and positive reinforcement. The materials and equipment that we use are carefully selected and designed for children. We’re also very mindful of seemingly minor details that may trigger anxiety for the little ones. By having these multiple layers of child-friendly measures, we’re able to positively elevate children’s first visits.

There are circumstances where sedation can be considered to help manage a child’s anxiety in order to deliver quality dental care. Children with many cavities or heightened anxiety or simply those of a very young age can benefit from sedation if they were to need extensive dental treatment. Dr. Fran will consider unique elements that are applicable to the needs of your child and your family. Together, we will balance the risk and benefits of monitoring the cavities, non-drilling options and treating the cavities under sedation. We are here to support your family and help you make the right decision for your child.

Finishing a visit on a positive note

For the really little one’s first visit, prepare for some tears and fuss. In some ways, the first couple dental visits can be similar to your child’s transition into the first day of daycare or kindergarten. It’s normal for a child to be cautious and slightly apprehensive in a new environment and new faces, especially when someone new starts counting their teeth! Once children realize and learn about what’s actually happening, the fear of the unknown subsides and they will start enjoying their visits. To help children get more excited about their next visit, we recommend that you talk about positive parts of their dental experience. It can be as simple as watching TV on the ceiling or getting a prize at the end.

Remember that a stress-free dental visit for your child starts at home. With regular brushing, flossing and a healthy diet, the visits can be short and sweet which naturally evolve to a happy dental experience!