A child’s first trip to the dentist is always a big step for both child and parent. However, this step needn’t be a scary one for your child as there are many things that you can do to make it as pleasant and positive an experience for them as possible.
First off, it is important to set the precedent that the dentist office is a fun and safe place to go. One very effective way of achieving this is to take your child along to one of your own dental visits first (a simple cleaning might be better than, say, a root canal…), before it is time for him or her to have their own appointment. By showing your child that you are not afraid of the dentist, and letting him or her become acclimated to the environment of the office early on, your child will be more relaxed when it comes his or her turn to meet the dentist for the first time.
Scheduling is another important factor when it comes to making this maiden voyage go as smooth as possible. More than likely, the best time for your child’s first appointment will be in the morning, when he or she is well rested and has already had breakfast, and is thus less likely to feel tired and cranky.
However, more important than anything else is how you plan on explaining to your child what a trip to the dentist means in the first place. For this maneuver, there are many different approaches that one can use. One might be that the child is going on a “field trip” to the dentist’s office. Another might be swapping the word “appointment” with “adventure”. You probably want to avoid using words like “examination” or even “cleaning” (we all know how some kids hate taking baths!). Emphasize how nice and kind that the dentist you’re going to is, and maybe even say that the dentist chair moves up and down like a carnival ride. No matter what, it is important that you instill in your child early on the idea that going to the dentist is a good thing to do, and that it might even be fun! For this first visit it is important to save the more serious stuff for later; after you get them through that first visit you can then move on to explaining that going to the dentist makes it so that you are protecting your teeth from “getting sick”.
The final tip we have for making your child’s first dental examination as pleasant as possible can be summed up in one simple word: distraction. The old standby of prizes waiting at the end of the dental tunnel for your child is of definite importance, so make sure the office you go to provides this for the young ones (and if not, bring some yourself). However, why not get your child something new to distract them while on the way to the appointment? This may seem at first like “spoiling” them, but, after all, “a spoon full of sugar does make the medicine go down.” Thus, if your child has a new toy in his or her hand upon entering the dentist office, there is a good chance that this will remain in the forefront of their consciousness most of the way toward climbing up into the chair.
So, parents be brave! With a little forethought and creativity, you can turn your child’s first dental appointment into a positive, fun experience, and create a solid foundation for your child to establish a healthy attitude about taking care of their teeth as well.