Your child’s first dental appointment is an exciting opportunity to introduce them to the benefits of excellent oral health practices. As a parent, you pave the way for your child’s future health habits as an adult. It is your responsibility to ensure that your child gets regular dental check-ups. With the right start to dentistry in childhood, your child will have access to the knowledge and care they need to practice and maintain proper oral health habits.
Developing and maintaining good oral hygiene habits in your children plays a significant role in helping them lead a healthy life both in the present and in the future.
As children grow old enough for their first visit to the dentist, they might be uncertain and afraid. It is not something that is familiar to them. Their feeling for their first visit to the dentist also largely depends on the oral hygiene habits you have helped them develop and practice at home.
If you are having problems taking your child for their first visit to the dentist, you can start preparing them by helping them understand what they should expect and why is it so important to go to the dentist.
Step #1 – Keep Their Teeth Clean
A large number of dentists recommend taking your child to the dental clinic around 2 years of age, or as soon as their baby teeth have fully grown in.
It is important to take your child in to visit a dentist once their teeth have fully grown in because, your dentist can identify problems in your child’s bite, or tooth alignment before they become a more severe issue in adulthood.
Baby teeth are placeholders for adult teeth and your dentist can quickly identify any orthodontic issues in your child’s teeth, and work to prevent them early. It is also important to take your child to the dentist at this age so that they can be familiar and comfortable with visiting the dentist as they mature and grow older.
Before you take your child to the dentist, make sure their oral health is in proper order. Clean their teeth thoroughly. Get a bright colored baby toothbrush with a tiny spot of infant-friendly toothpaste to gently clean their growing teeth.
Use a warm, soft washcloth to clean any food from around the gums. Taking them to the dentist this early will gradually help them adjust to the dentist and they will understand how important it is to go for regular dental checkups.
Step#2 – Make Cleaning Teeth Fun
Many young children are keen observers and learn from imitation. Make cleaning teeth with them a fun and enjoyable activity. Teach them how to use their own toothbrush and race with them to see who can clean all of their teeth first.
Reward your child after they brush their teeth, to reinforce that what they did was good for them. You can even play ‘dentist’ with your child. Take turns and pretend to be a dentist and a patient.
If your child has toys or action figures, pretend to take them to the dentist as well. Use props like toothbrushes, floss, and little water cups to fully immerse your child in the experience. Teach your child about the role their dentist will play in their life.
Let them know that the role of their dentist is to help them, whether it simply be by cleaning their teeth, or performing more complex procedures like braces later on.
Step#3 – Share Knowledge About Teeth
Your child is probably curious about their new teeth growing in. Help them thoroughly understand what teeth are made of, and how they function. Get them excited about all the new foods they can eat with a full mouth of teeth.
Tell them about why they need to keep them healthy and warn them of bad things that can happen if they don’t. Explain how cavities are formed, you can even show them fillings in your own teeth, if you have them, so they can better understand.
Talk and share as much knowledge about teeth as you can, this will help your child recognize the importance of keeping teeth healthy.
Let your child look at their own teeth in the mirror. Teach them to observe what healthy teeth look like, starting with their own.
Step#4 – Set A Good Example
Be sure that you maintain a proper oral hygiene regime. Explain to your child that you brush your teeth twice every day, and let them watch, and brush their own teeth with you.
Let your child know why you also need to floss your teeth, to reach in between teeth, to places that the toothbrush can’t always reach.
You have a greater amount of teeth than your child, you can smile and let them look at what their adult teeth will look like eventually. Introduce your child to your own healthy routine, and watch as they quickly pick up on it.
Step#5 – Be Supportive
You may remember your first day at the dentist, be supportive and empathize with your child. They may be concerned about meeting new people in the dental office or being alone in an unfamiliar environment.
Encourage them and help them get over any fears that they may have regarding their first dental appointment.
Ask your child about things that scare him/her about the dentist and assure them that you will be right there the entire time. Let them take their favorite toy or a healthy snack with them, also consider rewarding them with what they love the most after every appointment.
Talk with your child about what is going to happen in the dentist’s office. Let them know that the dentist is nothing to be afraid of and that their job is to make sure your child’s teeth are healthy.
Step#6 – Introduce Your Child Before Getting An Appointment
Many dentists accommodate their young patients. Your dentist knows it is important for your child to be familiar with them before a dental appointment. It eases both your child’s mind and the mind of your dentist, knowing that your child won’t be worried about meeting new people on the day of their appointment.
Before you set up an appointment for your child, take them for a visit to the clinic. Hold hands and let them view the waiting room and areas of the clinic.
It is common for dental offices to have toys and books ready for their younger clients. So let your child play and familiarize themselves with the place.
Introduce them to the dentist so the next time you come for a checkup, they will be acquainted beforehand and less hesitant.
A professional children’s dentist will recognize how important it is for your child to be familiar with them prior to the child’s first visit. They will show your child the office and show them the dental tools that they use. Often dentists want to be sure your child is comfortable as it makes working on that child easier as well.
Come on in!
Remember that good oral hygiene always begins at home; develop habits in your children like brushing daily so that they start realizing the importance of a healthy set of teeth from the beginning.
When their first day at the dentist approaches, get your child excited about everything they’ve learned about the dentist. Reward them with a favorite activity after the dental appointment to remind them that going to the dentist is a special and fun event.