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Dentistry For Children: Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist

Taking kids to the family dentist is necessary to keep their teeth healthy and promote oral hygiene habits. But from a child’s point of view, a trip to the dentist can be scary. Plus, as your child’s teeth continue to fall out and grow, he may take at least 10 trips to the dentist before starting kindergarten. To help ease future visits for your child (and for the dentist!), follow these steps so that he will feel comfortable and more relaxed.

Start Young

The earlier a child visits the dentist, the better. This will provide your child with a ‘dental home’ where all her needs — whether a periodic preventive visit or an emergency — will be taken care of. It’s best that the first visit starts at age 1 or when the first tooth is visible.

Keep It Simple

When preparing for a visit, especially the first time, try not to include too many details. Keep a positive attitude when discussing an upcoming visit, but don’t give your child false hope. Avoid saying that everything will be fine because if your child ends up needing a treatment, he might lose trust in both the dentist and you.

Consider a Pretend Visit

Before the first dentist appointment, play pretend with your child to be the dentist and the patient. All you’ll need is a toothbrush. Count your little one’s teeth by starting with the number 1 or the letter A. Avoid making drilling noises or lining up other “instruments.” You can even hold up a mirror and show her how the dentist might look at and check her teeth. Then let your child role-play by using a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a stuffed animal or doll. The key is getting her familiar with the routine so that she’s more comfortable for the real visit.

Avoid Bribery

Many experts do not recommend promising your child a special treat if she behaves well at the dentist. Doing so will only increase their apprehension. Saying, “If you don’t fuss or cry, you’ll get a lollipop,” might make your little one think, “What’s so bad about the dentist that I might want to cry?” Promising a sugary treat also sends the wrong message after a dentist emphasizes having clean, healthy teeth by avoiding sweets that can cause cavities. Instead, after the visit is over, praise your child for her good behavior and bravery. Every once in a while, surprise her with a sticker or a small toy as an encouragement.

Emphasize the Importance of Good Oral Hygiene

Teach your child that visiting the dentist is a necessity, not a choice and that the dentist will take care of his teeth so that they are strong enough for him to eat. You might also explain that the dentist helps keep cavities at bay and ensures that his patients will have a beautiful smile for years to come.

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