Talking To Your Child About The Dentist
If you think about it, it’s understandable that a child may feel nervous or scared when they first visit the dentist. After all, they’re going into a new environment with new people, and unfamiliar technology and tools are everywhere they look.
And for children who aren’t accustomed to dental care, having their mouths examined may feel intimidating and invasive.
Having said this, it’s important that your child’s first dental experiences be as positive as possible. Those initial visits form the foundation for your child’s future attitude to dental care, so you'll want to get them off to a good start!
One of the best things you can do to make your children’s first dental appointments non-threatening and positive is to make sure they are as prepared as they possibly can be. Sit down with your children when they’re feeling calm and relaxed, and have a chat with them about what to expect.
Here’s some advice about what you should – and shouldn’t – say.
Choose your words wisely and don’t be too specific.
When talking to your child about their upcoming dental appointment, it's best to avoid words that might scare your child. For example, "needle" or "drill" might be alarming. Instead, you could replace "needle" with "spray" or "spritz", or try "whistle brush" instead of drill.
Your best bet might be just to keep it as simple as possible. Try saying:
"The dentist is going to count your teeth and make them nice and clean."
If your child asks you any questions, be honest with them, but continue to keep it as simple as you can and use plain, simple language.
Play down your own negative feelings and experiences.
Many adults feel nervous about visiting the dentist as well. It’s quite normal, but you probably don’t want to pass those feelings on to your children!
When you talk about your dental experiences and feelings with your child, try to keep your language mild and positive.
Consider a pretend visit.
Before the first dentist appointment, play pretend with your child. You can be the dentist and they can be the patient. All you'll need is a toothbrush.
Do a count of your child's teeth by starting with the number one or the letter A. You won't want to make any of the drilling noises or line up any "instruments." Try holding up a mirror to show your child how the dentist is going to be looking at their teeth.
Let your child role-play by using a toothbrush to clean the teeth of a stuffed animal or doll. The key is getting your child familiar with the routine so that they're more comfortable for the real visit.