Just the suggestion of a visit to the dentist evokes fear and dread in many people, so it is understandable that many parents are apprehensive about their child’s first experience. A positive initial experience will create a good dental patient for life. It is very important that your child has their first appointment before there are problems. Once there is pain due to decay or an injury, it is difficult to make a child’s first visit a fun and comfortable experience. A well visit is strongly recommended by the age of 2 or earlier.
The appointment should be scheduled early in the day before the child has activities or school. A tired child cannot be a good patient no matter how well behaved he or she may be. The parent should put a positive light on the visit. Describe the dentist as a helper or a friend. Do not tell the child about it until the morning of the appointment. Do not give too much information before you get to the office. An experienced dental staff will give the child the proper orientation. If you are apprehensive about dental treatment for yourself do not let the child sense your fear. Children can be very perceptive! If you are unsure of what will be done call the dentist before the visit.
We recommend that a parent stay in the room with their child and even sit on the chair with the child on their lap if necessary. Sometimes a child’s behavior at the pediatrician or even for a haircut is a good predictor of how they will be at the dentist. Don’t be alarmed if your child cries. The first visit may be scary but never painful! Crying is often the child’s way to voice their apprehension or objection. An experienced dentist or hygienist will talk your child through the procedure. Make sure the instruments are shown to the child in a “tell, show, do” technique.
Keep in mind that the dental office is a strange, new environment and it will take some time before your child is completely comfortable. If the first visit is difficult, the following ones are almost always better. For this reason it is important for your child to have their first visit and become familiar with the dentist and the office before he or she needs treatment which may be more difficult.