Let's take a walk down the memory lane where your mother would have conditioned you to visit the dentist, "Honey, it's going to be okay. There is nothing to be afraid of! The dentist isn't going to give you an injection." 

Well, what illusion was framed in your mind? Maybe it was something like, “Okay mom!” and at the back of your head, you were just thinking if there was something out there to give you cold feet. 

There is always a ‘First Time’. It is nothing more than breaking the ice to acclimate yourself to new environments and the same applies to children as well. What kids need is just a little help, hope, and someone who believes in them. 

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

It is recommended to visit your paediatric dentist along with your child at the age of 6 months or when your child’s first tooth erupts, whichever is earlier. It is mandatory your child sees the dentist before he/she is 1 year old. 

The first dental visit is usually short and the goal is to make your child know who his/her dentist is. The aim of the first dental visit is definitely not to scare your child but to prepare and encourage them to develop good oral habits from the very beginning itself. Your child’s dentist will examine and check if everything is fine and discuss topics relating to your child’s bite, teething, nutrition needs, use of fluoride toothpaste, and tips to prevent tooth decay. When your baby is just 6 months or 1 year old, there is not much prep you require.

Once your child is about 2 years old and has started understanding things, it's when you need to prepare your child for that first dental visit. Most children have fear and anxiety while visiting their dentist. Here are some tips to a pleasant first dental visit. 

1. Reading out storybooks and watching movies.  

"Surprise Sweetie! We are at the dentist !!" Needless to say, that kid is definitely a bundle of nerves! You need to prepare your child prior to the visit. To alleviate the anxiety, all you need to do is read out some motivational books or watch some movies where their favorite character is having a jolly time at the dentist. To name a few books: Brush the Germs Away, Curious George Visits The Dentist, What to Expect When You Go To The Dentist, Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth, Pony Brushes His Teeth, Pico Puppy Visit The Dentist, My Dentist The Superhero. 

Kids invariably relate to fictional characters (a person or animal in a novel, play, television series, storybook, or movie). Children are exceptionally great imitators. They would try and replicate the actions and emotions of their favorite characters at the dental clinic. 

2. Playing dentist-dentist with your child. 

Make your child comfortable by making a dental visit during playtime. Ask your child to open his/her mouth and count their teeth. To make it a fun-filled session, ask your child to count his/her teeth or ask questions to check if your child enjoys brushing his/her teeth, how many times a day should your child brush their teeth, does he/she feel any pain in the mouth, what is his/her favourite dental movie or storybook character, etc. 

You can also create a ‘dentist’s corner’ at home and play some fun games once in a while. Arrange different oral care products in a tray and teach about each of them to your child: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, tongue cleaner, and mouthwash. To make the experience even more realistic, you can put on a white coat just like your child’s dentist does to create the environment of a real dental clinic. Remember not to go overboard and do not overwhelm your child.

3. Watch your words.

Euphemisms (polite expressions used in place of words or phrases that might otherwise be considered harsh or unpleasant) work the best for kids. Do not use words that would create any traumatizing images in your child's head. Avoid words like pain, don't be afraid, drill, injections, etc. 

Keep it short and simple like the dentist is just going to count your teeth. In case of doubt, do counsel from your dentist prior to the appointment. 

4. Are you making your child dentally anxious?

Crying is perfectly normal during the first few dental visits. Don't get petrified and be as supportive as possible. Children are very receptive to any change in mood, tone of voice, expressions, and change in body language from parents. You need to remain calm and relaxed. Talk to the dentist prior to your appointments and relieve your fears. You have to be willing to bring about change. Whatever method works for your child is the one you should continue to encourage. 

Remember that regular dental visits are important for your child’s oral health. By the time the child is about three years old, he/she should be having full dental appointments and this will happen only if your child’s previous experiences with the dentist have been pleasant. Take the help of your paediatric dentist to know more on how to deal with your child’s fear and anxiety regarding his/her dental visits.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.