That first visit to the dentist can make or break your child’s dental foundation. So start them young. And when we say “young,” we mean it—typically, dental professionals recommend bringing your kid to the dental office once their first tooth emerges. Realistically speaking, however, parents may opt to take their child to the dentist once the kid is much older.
In this case, how your child takes to that first visit will define the rest of their dental appointments in the future. As such, it’s essential to take note of their needs and demeanor as they can influence how the visit will go. If your children have harmful misconceptions about the dentist that can contribute to a fear of the dental office, it’s best to cut them off before they devolve into something dangerous. Otherwise, here are some things you could do to make your child’s first visit to the dentist a great one:
Let playtime be your guide
There’s nothing a little fun playtime can’t fix. Younger children are particularly receptive to this, as recess serves as a way for them to safely and enjoyably explore the world. Take this to your advantage when it comes to prepping them for their first visit.
There are many ways you can do this. Young children—toddlers, in particular—have unique developmental quirks that you can work with. At this age, your kids have begun to realize their independence. They then take whatever chance they can to see what they can do themselves. Knowing this, you and your child can play dentist to prep them up for how their appointment will go.
Kids at this age also tend to think in fantastical terms. It can be a blessing or a curse depending on how they utilize it. During playtime, you can encourage them to see the appointment in a positive light. You can turn the dental tools into magic wands, or plaque into small enemies to lure out. Once they think about their dentist appointments this way, they’ll most likely feel the same way once they’re on the dentist’s chair.
Before your child goes to bed, do this
Aside from playtime, telling and sharing stories are another great way to get their imagination going. That said, you can use their bedtime storytime to excite them for their appointments further.
You and your child could start looking for books about the dentist that you can read together, either at your local bookstore or library. Be particularly keen on the types of books they like and see what they enjoy about it. When storytime comes around, play up the things they enjoyed about the book. Just make sure it doesn’t delve too much into fiction. If your child needs to get severe dental treatment, it might be more harmful to sugarcoat certain aspects of the session.
Your storytime sessions don’t have to be limited to books, however. To amp up the creativeness, you can have an impromptu storytelling session where you and your child can take turns continuing the story as they see fit. While fantastical, it’s still a fun way for them to place themselves into the situation, diffusing any anxiety they might have.