You’ve successfully done your teeth, the first toothbrush, and learned to spit and rinse, and now it’s finally time to plan a visit to the dentist. According to pediatric dentists Carrie Tsai, DMD, MPH, and Deepesh Prajapati, children are at risk for cavities even before all of their primary teeth appear, so it’s important to practice good dental hygiene as early as possible – even when they are first. first birthday. , MDS. Going to the dentist for the first time is an important step, but it doesn’t have to be stressful, as long as you set expectations and never organize a surprise visit. Don’t know where to start? Dr Tsai and Dr Prajapati shared with POPSUGAR all of their top tips for getting a child ready for their first dentist appointment.
- Role play with a stuffed animal, then bring it to the date.
For kids, a lot of the anxiety surrounding a dentist visit is due to not knowing exactly what to expect, so Dr Tsai suggested role play ahead of time. “Let them use a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a teddy bear or a doll,” she told POPSUGAR. “You can even count your child’s teeth while holding a mirror to show them what the dentist might look like and check their teeth. On the day of the tour, be sure to bring the stuffed animal you played the comfort role with. reminder to your child. “
- Make the appointment during the time of the day when your child is least difficult.
“If your child is already scared, remember that early morning appointments are best for a smooth dental visit,” Dr Prajapati told POPSUGAR. It’s a time when the kids won’t be so hypersensitive and the dentist’s office isn’t that busy and overwhelming. However, if your child remains upset during the visit and you can’t find a way to calm them down, you may need to completely reprogram, not only out of respect for the dentist’s time, but also because forcing them to stay will not help. that discourage him. to always want to come back.
- Read them a children’s book about a friendly dentist.
To reinforce the idea that a visit to the dentist is a positive thing, it may be helpful to read books or watch YouTube videos, such as Don’t be afraid of the dentist by Derrick McGhee or the Adventures in the molar system series on Colgate’s YouTube channel. “Use story time to start a conversation about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene,” Dr. Tsai said. The dentist’s office will likely have children’s books in the waiting room, but Dr Tsai and Dr Prajapati both recommended getting ready before the appointment so your child knows what to expect.
- Do not eat a large meal before the date.
“I always advise my patients to have an empty stomach two hours before their dental appointment,” Dr. Prajapati told us. “This is usually a problem with small children – if they start to cry they often feel nauseous, and if they have a full stomach they throw up. Some children have very strong gag reflexes.” So it’s best not to eat until after their date, as the vomiting will only make their experience more stressful and uncomfortable. “Talk to your dentist beforehand to find out if they want your child to have an empty stomach or not,” said Dr Prajapati.
- Use familiar, safe language when talking about the dentist.
No matter how stubborn your child is, bringing up the dangers of cavities and root canals to scare them off and encourage them to go to the dentist is just going to make them feel even more intimidated. “Avoid using off-putting words like needle and pain,” Dr. Tsai said. “Instead, use positive sentences and explain that the dentist helps build strong, healthy teeth.” She and Dr Prajapati agree that encouraging responsible dental habits and developing a healthy approach early on is more effective than resorting to fear-mongering tactics.
- Allow the dentist to communicate directly with your child.
It is tempting to speak up for your child, especially when you are at any type of doctor’s appointment, but if your child is 3 years or older, Dr Prajapati said it is more helpful to speak up. let theirs interact with the dentist. “If you repeat what the dentist asks the child to do, you are not allowing the dentist to make a connection with the child. Yes, it may be slow at first, but once that connection is established all visits from that point on will go smoothly, ”Dr Prajapati said.
- Set a good example.
“Most fears about the dentist pass from parents to children,” said Dr Tsai. “Stay relaxed and calm about their visit, and I hope they will too.” Make sure your child sees you brushing and taking care of your teeth, and remind them that you go to the dentist like they do. It all starts with your approach and the example you set. A little preparation can go a long way to making the first date and future experiences stress free.