In preparation for your visit, and especially for the first time, do not give too much detail to your child as this tends to raise more questions and may contribute to increasing their anxiety. Keep a positive attitude when explaining your upcoming visit, and avoid saying things like “the doctor will just watch” or “it will not hurt” because in the event that your child would actually need a treatment he or she will have an unpleasant experience and could lose confidence in you and the dentist.
Be careful not to use words such as “pain” and “discomfort” around your child, and let our staff show him or her the treatments and procedures we will perform since we have the experience. You can simply tell your child the dentist is looking for “cavity bugs” and wants to clean them out or that the doctor will check their smile and count their teeth. It is important to use positive phrases like “clean, strong and healthy teeth” to make sure the visit stays fun and non-alarming.
Some parents choose to take their children to their cleaning visit. This is a good approach to introduce them to the environment of a dental office. The “cleaning” visit (and not the treatment appointment) is appropriate for children since it offers an opportunity to become more familiar with the equipment, the noises and the dental examination process itself. Invite your child to ask questions and be reassuring with your answers. Your cleaning appointment is a unique opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of a visit to the dentist.
It is normal and quite appropriate for a young child to cry, wiggle and not want to be examined by a stranger. It is, therefore, necessary as a parent to remain calm and remember that the dentist and his staff are used to working with children and have already had their fair share of small outbursts. Let the professionals guide you; they may ask you to keep your distance or hold their hand to reassure them and prevent them from reaching for the dental instruments.
It is not recommended to promise your child special treatments if they behave well at the dentist. This will only increase their apprehension. Saying, for example, something like “If you do not cry, you will have a reward” could lead them to think “what is so bad at the dentist that I would cry”? Promising a sweet treat also sends the wrong message after your dentist will have insisted on a healthy diet and kindly asked to avoid sweets that could potentially cause cavities.
Once the visit is complete, congratulate your child for his or her good behavior and bravery. You can also surprise them with a sticker or a small toy as encouragement while emphasizing the importance of good oral hygiene. It is important for your children to learn that going to the dentist is a necessity and not a choice. This visit is part of their life routine, and not to be apprehended, since it is a fun activity and after all, the doctor will take care of their teeth so they can eat their favorite meals. The positive attitude you demonstrate will contribute to set in place your child’s oral health routine for the rest of their lives.