I took my son to the dentist recently and being that this is now the third time he’s gone we’ve definitely developed a routine. But it’s not always easy. Some parents don’t know what to say or how to help their children and sometimes the dentist or dental hygienists aren’t in tune with how to talk to a child and they certainly don’t know your child specifically and how your child responds under stress. The first time we went was a bit difficult. The dental staff were impressed with my son’s patience levels. But I KNOW him. I know better. He was uncomfortable, mad, and in an all around sour mood when we left. It didn’t have to go that poorly. We could have had a happier first visit if I had been more prepared.
So here are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way to help you get your child through their first dentist appointment smoothly.
Before you even step foot at the dentist office ask them what exactly will be done during the appointment so that you can help prepare the child. A step by step walk through is best.
- Talk to your child and prepare them for the routine
- Pretend play the routine. Allow the child to play the patient as well as the dentist to help them understand both sides of the visit.
- Be present during the appointment. Put your phone away and focus on your child. Make sure you are tuning into their cues and that they are comfortable and happy.
- Advocate for your child if you notice discomfort. One thing in particular that I’ve noticed is that my son does not like it when they use the water tool. The water pools in the back of his throat he ends up choking and getting mad. This happened during my son’s first appointment and afterward he was much less cooperative. He refused to let the dentist look in his mouth afterward. The whole visit then became a struggle. So to mitigate that always warn your dental hygienist in advance if you think this might be an issue for your child or an easy thing to do is to ask them to allow your child to turn their head to the left or right so that water doesn’t pool up in the back of their throat.
- Talk them Through how things will feel immediately prior. I’ve noticed that this seems particularly helpful when they go to polish his teeth. It’s very tickley and reminding your child of that immediately prior to it happening allows them to try to calm their body down in order to sit still and they’re not completely surprised when they feel that zinging tingle feeling.
- Make it fun. In our case this happens to be the easiest part because at the end of the visit the dental hygienist allows my son to pick out a toy from the toy jar and the dentist himself actually makes balloon animals for the kids.