Preparing your child for a dentist appointment

Taking your child to the dentist is a reality that we, as parents, have to accept. Depending on your little one, this can rank up there as an overall unpleasant experience worthy of calling in backup. But don’t fret… there are some simple strategies you can apply to help turn that frown upside down!

  • Discuss going to the dentist with your child – Who is the dentist and what do they do? Why is it important to have clean teeth? Keep language and information brief. If it is their first visit, chances are it will only involve counting teeth, looking at the health of the gums and discussing proper brushing and flossing. No need to get into elaborate detail about cavities and root canals! Keep it positive.
  • Read books about going to the dentist so they know what to expect – There are a lot of books on the market about going to the dentist. Keep in mind, they can be rather detailed so you may need to read ahead and paraphrase, or read just a portion of the book that applies to the situation. Some good titles for first visit include:

- The Bernstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Going to the Dentist by Anne Civardo
- What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist (What to Expect Kids)
- Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer)

  • Role-play going to the dentist with your child – Even if it’s not your thing, try it! Pull out the stuffies or superheroes. Act out what the experience will look like. Take turns, allowing the child to be the dentist, the parent and the patient. Entitle your child to ask the dentist questions to help build confidence.
  • Visit the dentist office before check-up day – This may seem excessive especially with the other things you have going on in your life, but familiarity can reduce stress. Many pediatric dentistry offices have an array of interesting things for little eyes including play areas, aquariums, toy vending machines and even toy trains that line the ceiling. Make the pre-visit a fun one, a place your child would want to return (call ahead of time so reception expects you).
  • Reassure your child that it will be ok – Remind your child that you (or the adult taking them to the dentist) will be there with them throughout the whole appointment. Allow them to bring a special comfort item that helps to calm and relax them.

While we do want to prepare the kids in advance of their appointment, make a conscious effort not to give them the impression that they should be worried. We don’t want to create unnecessary stress. Keep the vocabulary light, the activities fun and try not to let your own worries come through. Dentistry has come a long way from when you were a kid!

The Canadian Dental Association recommends a visit to the pediatric dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age. Regular six-month check ups should be booked from then on, depending on the child’s specific mouth condition.

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