The first dental appointment is a big step for a child. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should experience this initial visit by their first birthday. During this visit, an oral exam and cleaning take place. Parents also receive important information about teething, brushing, diet, and oral habits like soothers, thumb sucking, and even the use of sippy cups.
At the age of one, your child shouldn’t have any preconceived notions about dentists. Still, visiting a clinic can be an exciting and sometimes scary time for a little one. Setting early expectations and making the dentist fun go a long way. This is especially true for older children who are having their first dental appointment a little later.
What can you do as parents to prepare your child and create a positive first dental appointment? At Downtown Sleep Dentistry, it’s important to us that patients of all ages feel comfortable in our clinics. If you have a child about to have their first dental visit, here are some tips to ease them into the process.
Introduce Healthy Oral Habits Early
Prior to a child’s first dental appointment, there are plenty of ways to introduce them to healthy oral habits. Show your children what common household dental tools look like and how they work.
For young children with no teeth or one tooth, introduce oral health by example. Let your child watch you brush and floss. Making these routines a normal part of your child’s day prepares them for their own brushing and flossing experiences in the future.
Play Dentist at Home
Imagination plays a big role in your child’s development. You can put these skills to play with a dentist game. Take turns pretending to be a dentist and patient with your child. You can make believe you have dental tools, or use real toothbrushes and toothpaste to make the dentist fun.
Understanding the practical side of your dentist clinic demystifies it for your child. This takes fear of the unknown out of the equation. At the very least, it lets your child imagine what their first dental appointment will be like.
You might be wondering how much a one-year-old gets from a game of dentist. Even if they don’t fully understand the experience, it helps with practicing brushing, opening and closing their mouth for the dentist, and sitting back in the dentist chair.
Read Dentist Books
Reading to your children is another useful way to prepare for the first dental appointment. You can find age-appropriate books with dentistry themes at most bookstores. Even baby board books come with pictures of common tooth care tools like floss, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.
You can read more advanced books that include dentist office visits as well. Even if your one-year-old doesn’t comprehend all the words in the book, the pictures are helpful to deliver the message of what’s to come.
Books are a great learning tool. They help open your child to the concept of a dentist visit and introduce common dental office themes.
Take a Visit to the Clinic
A wonderful way to introduce your children to a dental clinic setting is by scheduling an early visit. This visit doesn’t require your child to do anything more than look around the waiting room, chat with the receptionist and dentist, and get acquainted with the feel of the office.
Some dentists are happy to make a casual appointment for your child to come sit in the dentist chair. Children can look at the tools, practice sitting in the chair, and observe the space. This isn’t the true initial visit, but a time to prepare.
If you’re not keen on a tour of the clinic, you can also take your child for a walk to the dental office building. Point out the building and explain what’s inside. Seeing it in the light of day during a family walk makes for a far less ominous sensation on the day of the appointment.
Schedule a Cleaning for Yourself
If your dentist is on board, having your child observe you getting a checkup or cleaning is a big motivator. One of the things children find most unsettling is unknown dental tools. Once they see those shiny tools in action and realize they don’t hurt, those nerves will settle.
Seeing their parent sit in the chair, relax, and have a common checkup or cleaning can be a big help. Remain positive throughout your experience and your child will feel those calm comforting vibes and bring them to their own appointment.
Of course, with very young children, be sure to have another adult handy to monitor the child as you have your cleaning. If you get stressed or upset because you’re trying to keep an eye on your child and receive treatment, it could have an opposite and unsettling impact.
Talk About Dentist Visit Expectations
Babies aren’t known for their conversational skills, but that doesn’t mean they don’t absorb the tone of voice and common words and phrases. Hearing about the dentist in an upbeat and casual way will create a positive outlook on the experience to come.
Even a child who doesn’t fully understand who the dentist is or what they do benefits from early chats on the subject. Talk about cleaning teeth, opening our mouths so the dentist can look inside, brushing, and other details.
Contact Downtown Sleep Dentistry
Interested in learning more about your child’s first dental appointment? We can help. At Downtown Sleep Dentistry, we work with patients of all ages and dental experience. We understand that the dentist can be intimidating for some people, especially young children with no prior experience.
Our team of professionals works closely with parents and young patients to develop a relaxing and safe environment for our patients. It’s important to us that your little ones associate our dental office with positive experiences.
For more information on children’s dentistry, or to book an appointment for your child’s first visit, call us at 1-289-272-8696. You can also request a special appointment through our online contact page.