Posted on: 01 February, 2022
Regular check-up and clean appointments with a dentist or oral health therapist should be part of every child's oral health care routine. In this blog, we share 9 expert tips for helping your child to prepare for their first trip to the dentist.
3 minute read
Children who are used to visiting the dentist from a young age may be more likely to keep up with these appointments when they grow up, and less likely to experience dental anxiety or poor oral health.
Regular dental appointments give children's dentists the chance to:
Kids who visit the dentist more often will also be more familiar with the practice surroundings, staff and equipment, which can help to prevent unnecessary dental anxiety from developing.
What happens during your child's dental appointment depends on their age and what they are comfortable with.
For babies and very young children, this may involve checking their teeth and gums using a mirror while they sit on your lap to feel secure. For some children, it can take several visits before they feel comfortable enough to let the dentist check their mouth. During these early stages, the goal is to help make them feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
For older children who are visiting a new dentist, or who haven't visited in a long time, their dentist may take an x-ray to get a closer look at their teeth under the gumline and to provide oral hygiene treatments to clean their teeth and remove any plaque build-up.
After their check-up, their dentist may then recommend preventive or corrective treatments your child could benefit from and offer advice on how to take care of their oral health in between visits.
To help your child feel more comfortable and get the most out of their visit, a little preparation can go a long way. Here are some tips that could take the worry out of visiting the dentist and even make it something to look forward to.
Children can be sensitive to your feelings. If you feel nervous about your child's visit, or you're dealing with your own dental fear, try not to let these show in front of your child. A parent’s ill-feeling towards the dentist often becomes the cause of the child’s fear.
Talk about going to the dentist in positive terms and avoid using it as a threat for not taking care of their teeth.
The unknown can be scary, no matter your age. Make sure your child has some idea of what will happen when they visit the practice so they won't be surprised when their dentist asks to look in their mouth.
If they associate doctors with injections or other unpleasant experiences, you can reassure them that these won't be involved.
From Peppa Pig to Dora the Explorer, lots of cartoon characters have enjoyed their trips the dentist, which could help your child to feel more confident about their own visit.
You should have no trouble finding books and YouTube clips that may be appropriate, and your dentist may have more recommendations based on your child's age and interests. Here are a few:
If your child loves to roleplay, you can suggest playing dentist together, with you as their dentist checking their teeth with a small mirror and brushing their teeth.
When it's their turn, you can be their patient or substitute a favourite toy. (Just don't use their normal toothbrush on toys!)
Timing your visit around naps and mealtimes can make a difference to its success. Feeling tired or hungry can affect children's moods and make them less likely to cooperate.
Dentists understand this and will try to schedule morning appointments when possible, if this fits your schedule and your child's routine.
Does your child have a comfort toy or other item that helps them to feel calm and secure? Bring it along to keep them company and help them to feel at ease with the dentist.
Some dental practices have toys or kids activities available that can keep little ones occupied while waiting and during their appointments.
If they need a little encouragement, promising a gift or a favourite activity like a trip to the playground or watching a movie could motivate them to get through their appointment and be on their best behaviour. Just avoid sugary treats, or you'll undo some of their hard work!
Family dental practices may offer their own rewards to show their appreciation to their best patients! At EVP Dental, our dentists hand out certificates and toothbrushing timers to help kids and parents take the best care of their teeth.
If you have a dental appointment scheduled before your child's is due, bringing them along can give them a more concrete idea of what to expect.
They can be introduced to their dentist and get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the dental practice to build familiarity ahead of their own visit.
After their successful first visit, it can be helpful to go over the experience with your child to reinforce positive associations, so things should be even easier next time.
Your child's dentist will recommend how often they should have a check-up. Most dentists recommend visiting every 6 months for the best chance of catching problems early.
If your child has an ongoing oral health condition, or is having a long-term treatment such as orthodontics, more frequent check-ups will be recommended.
Dentists recommend that young children have their first dental visit within 6 months of their first teeth erupting. For most children, this is around the time of their first birthday.
If you're looking for a new family dentist in South Perth, or your child is ready for their first check-up, contact our friendly team at EVP Dental today.