by JC Ryan
Ideally, your child’s first dentist visit is when the child is around one-year-old or about six months after the first tooth appears. Most families, however, wait until all the baby teeth have arrived or when the child is 2-1/2- to 3-years old.
Some wait longer, which often causes anxiety for the child from having a stranger so close and doing something to her mouth—something she can’t see and over which she has no control beyond refusal. However, some role playing and rehearsals can alleviate many of your child’s worries even before you arrive in the dentist’s office.
Role Play Their First Dentist Visit
Very little is more vivid than a child’s imagination. Bringing the dentist figure into playtime can help teach the child what to expect and allow the child a chance to become comfortable with the idea.
A toy medical kit can provide an ‘official’ look, and a few tongue depressors can allow safe play while ‘examining’ teeth. Clean straws can act as suction tubes and possibly even drills—with the child’s sound effects added, of course.
Have your child be the dentist and present your stuffed-animal-child for examination. Teach your child what to do to care for the bear-child’s teeth. Then reverse roles. You be the dentist and examine the child’s teeth. Make sure the bear or other soft, stuffed animal is close by. Use the same stuffed animal each time your child is the patient. Associate that stuffed animal with safety and fun and have the child bring it with her to the first appointment.
Play dentist as she and you brush your teeth each morning and night. Have the child check your teeth as you check your child’s teeth, all while role playing for a few moments.
If your dentist is amenable, bring your child to the dentist’s office well before the appointment and introduce him to the staff and the dentist. Let him look around and become familiar with the environment. If possible, bring the child more than once to heighten the familiarity. When it’s the child’s turn to climb into the seat for an exam, the child will know what everything is and what it does, thereby, reducing fear and anxiety.
If possible, have your child accompany other family members to their regular dental check-ups. Let the child see what’s happening and that the family member really is okay when all is said and done. Watching others have a positive experience will further seat the child’s comfort with the situation.
Don’t forget the stuffed animal!
Stay in the exam room with your child. Sit where you are easily seen and heard.
Read to your child during the appointment. Bring your kid’s favorite book and let him hear that you’re right there but not requiring conversation.
If desired, bring an MP3 player or something similar and allow the child to listen to something calming during the exam.
Reward your child after the first dental visit. Don’t ply the child with sweets, but a quick trip to a local park or a playground can provide a safe environment for the child to run off any lingering anxiety and can provide him with a sense of freedom after being in a dentist’s chair. Even if the child isn’t feeling up to running, jumping or climbing, a quiet walk or a shared bench for a few minutes can reinforce a sense of peace.
About the Author
JC Ryan is a freelance writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them understand which online courses and online schools they can choose from to reach their goals.