Preparing Kids for Dental Appointments: 3 Helpful Tips
Children need dental care as early as one year of age or within six months of their first tooth eruption, whichever comes first. While the very first visit to a dentist usually involves little more than an evaluation, even the act of sitting in a treatment chair can prove frightening or disorienting to small children.
Fortunately, you can help your children have a more relaxed and positive time at the dentist’s office, both for that initial visit and for subsequent examinations and treatments. Here are three helpful tips for preparing your kids for dental appointments.
1. Help Your Kids Understand Dental Care
While babies might not understand what you tell them, toddlers develop language skills that allow you to talk to them about what a dentist does and how the dentist helps teeth stay healthy. When you discuss these broad points with your kids, focus purely on the benefits of a healthy mouth instead of specific aspects of dental visits.
You may find it easier to explain dental visits to your children by demonstrating on a favorite doll or stuffed toy. This approach allows your kids to role-play as the dentist, which encourages two-way empathy and understanding. Picture books about dental visits can also help your kids understand what to expect.
2. Acquaint Your Kids With the Dentist’s Office
Children often fear the unknown. At first glance, an unprepared child might feel understandably afraid of a dental clinic’s unfamiliar people, tools, and sounds. The more at home your kids feel at the dentist’s office before their appointment, the more calm and confident they will feel when the day finally arrives.
If possible, schedule a preliminary tour of the dental clinic. Dentists enjoy meeting their patients, answering their questions, and putting any fears they might have to rest. Your kids may come away from the tour finding the various rooms, chairs, procedures and equipment fascinating instead of frightening.
3. Set the Stage for a Happier Day
Even after you have briefed your children on the value of dental care and gotten them comfortable with the idea of seeing the dentist, that first appointment may still create feelings of anxiety. You can minimize your kids’ trepidation by scheduling their dental visits in as positive a manner as possible.
Young children tend to get crankier and fussier as they tire out over the course of the day. For this reason, you should make every effort to schedule your kids’ dental appointments early in the morning or after a nap. This simple bit of planning will help to ensure a smoother, calmer experience for all concerned.
Additionally, don’t give your children time to get bored or brood over their appointment while they sit in the dentist’s waiting room. Bring favorite toys, games, or other distractions along to help keep their minds off of any potential negative thoughts or speculations.
Children also respond positively to rewards. Offer your children a sought-after toy, special dessert, or visit to a favorite place in return for good behavior at the dentist’s office. Remind them of that prize throughout the visit as needed to keep them focused on earning their reward.
Keep in mind that your own attitudes toward dentistry may have an influence on your kids. If you accidentally communicate your own sense of anxiety or dental phobia to your little ones, they may pick up on those feelings and adopt them as their own. Maintain a cheerful, enthusiastic demeanor whether you feel that way or not.
Kids Choice and All About Kids Dental can provide the ideal combination of a friendly atmosphere, experience, and dental skill for your children’s needs, from the earliest appointments to dental care for teens. Contact us to learn more and schedule a tour of our office for your little ones.