How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Dentist Appointment

Visiting the dentist can be frightening for young children, but it doesn’t have to be. Using a few strategies, you can help your child to have an enjoyable first visit. Try role-playing with your kids or reading books about visiting the dentist before the appointment. It can also be a good idea to schedule the appointment in the morning when your child is typically at their best.

Preparation is Key

The best time to talk with your child about their first dentist office appointment varies from parent to parent, but avoiding negative conversations that will only scare them is essential. Often, parents transfer their anxiety about visiting the dentist onto their children, which can lead to future dental fears and a negative attitude toward regular appointments. Try watching videos or reading books about visiting the dentist that features your child’s favorite characters. It will help them understand what to expect and put a positive spin on an otherwise scary and new experience. Schedule your child’s first visit when they are usually well-rested and in a good mood. You can also call ahead to find out if you can complete patient forms in advance, saving some time on the day of the visit. Also, ensure your child has a tooth-friendly snack and brushes their teeth before arriving.

Let Your Child Take Charge

During this visit, you need to remain calm and positive. Your kids will look to you for cues on how they should feel in this new environment, so keep your energy upbeat and let them know it’s okay to ask questions. Bringing their favorite stuffed animal or toy is also a good idea. It can help them to feel safe and secure throughout the entire appointment. Try to schedule their first dentist appointment in the morning when they are typically alert and active, instead of later in the day when they may be tired or grumpy. You can also read them books or watch age-appropriate shows about visiting the dentist for children and what to expect. Using these tools, you can get them excited for their first visit and help them understand that going to the dentist isn’t scary. It’s a necessary part of being a healthy kid!

Make the Visit Fun

One way to help your child feel at ease during their first dentist appointment is to make it fun. Search for children’s books and videos with characters they like, and talk about the visit often so they know what to expect. Avoid bringing them to the dentist when hungry, tired, or cranky. Another great way to make the visit fun is to role-play. Allow your child to role-play the procedures that will take place at the dentist using their favorite stuffed animal. Then, have them take turns acting as the “dentist” and hygienist to help set their mind at ease. You can ask the dentist if they’ll allow you to assist during your child’s appointment for extra comfort and familiarity.

Stay Calm

The best thing you can do for your child is to keep calm and positive. Kids pick up on vocal cues and body language. They will pick up on that and feel nervous if you are anxious about the visit. Talking about the visit in a cheerful tone and reading age-appropriate books about going to the dentist are great ways to help them understand what it will be like. Opposing terms like “shot” and “pain” should be avoided since they will only cause them anxiety.