How to Keep Your Child Happy at Their First Ever Dental Appointment
Your child's first visit to the dentist should be soon after their first tooth appears — don't wait until there's a problem to take them. The first visit can be scary for children, and a bad experience may color their opinion of the dentist for the rest of their life, so it's important to make sure everything runs smoothly. Follow the four tips below and your child should be happy and comfortable throughout their visit.
Schedule a morning appointment
The best time for a dental appointment is when your child is calm, settled, and well-rested. For most children, this means a morning visit is best. The later in the day your appointment is, the higher the chance that your child will be tired, sulky or uncooperative. If a morning visit isn't possible, make a plan to ensure your child is ready for their appointment later on. This could mean scheduling a nap a few hours before the appointment, playing in the park to let off excess energy before you go in, and making sure your child has eaten and won't be hungry.
Let your child know what to expect
New places can be really unsettling for kids, so preparing them beforehand is essential. You can do this by talking them through what will happen, showing them pictures of the dentist's surgery, and watching positive videos of dental appointments. Reading age-appropriate books about the dentist can also help, as can role playing games. Buy a toy dentist's kit and practice looking inside each other's mouths with mirrors, cleaning your teeth and using mouthwash.
Choose a dentist who specializes in children
Many dentists specialize in treating young patients and know how to put toddlers at ease. They'll often have toys available in the waiting room, fun pictures around their surgery, and may give children a sticker or lolly at the end of their visit. They'll also know how to deal with tears and tantrums without losing their cool. Choosing a children's dentist who's comfortable with children makes things easier for everyone, so do your research before making a choice.
Plan a treat after the visit
Despite your best efforts, your child may still be apprehensive about their appointment. If this is the case, plan a fun treat as a reward at the end of the visit. This could be a trip to their favorite play area, a new toy or a magazine. It doesn't need to be extravagant - just something that will help build positive associations.
Your child's early experiences with the dentist are really important. Plan well to ensure your child stays happy and doesn't develop a dental phobia.