It sounds a bit like the impossible dream, doesn’t it? Getting your kids to like going to the dentist (when there’s a slightly better than average chance that you don’t particularly care for it yourself). So let’s say that instead, we focus on helping your children understand why the dentist is a) not scary at all, and b) an important part of keeping a bright, happy, and healthy smile.

The First Visit

Your child’s very first visit is often more about the parent than it is the patient.

In general, your child’s first visit to the dentist should be by their first birthday (according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry). That seems a little early to a lot of parents, but these visits are normally about acclimatizing them to the office environment more than it is about catching cavities.

Having said that, some studies suggest that more than 1 in 4 children in the U.S has had at least one cavity by the age of 4, and a lot of them get cavities as early as 2.

At this visit we can talk to you about how to care for an infant’s teeth, how to use fluoride, and what to expect as the children continue to develop. We want this to be an effective learning experience for you.

Preparing Before and at the Office

There are some simple things you can do to help your children feel more confident about going to the dentist.

Be an example – If you look anxious about going to the dentist, your kids will feel it to. If you’re not keeping up a good hygiene routine, neither will they. Fear is often a learned reaction, so if you come in confident and unworried, it will help them immensely.

Start early – Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first couple come in. make good hygiene a part of their lives as early as possible.

Don’t focus on possible pain – If the only thing you talk to them about is the chance that they’re going to feel some pain, that’s the only thing they’ll focus on. You may think that you’re just bracing them for the eventuality, but they’ll start dwelling on it so much that even the slightest discomfort will translate to “pain” in their minds.

Try to make it fun – Bring a bag of their favorite toys and if you want. This can help them feel more at home and comfortable in the office surroundings.

Play dentist at home – Use their favorite stuffed animals or toys as a “patient” and pretend to be the dentist together. This will let them see that nothing scary is going to happen.

Keep it simple – Children don’t need every little detail. This can often confuse them or make them wonder why you’re talking so much about it if it’s really supposed to be a “simple, routine visit.”

Be positive – Talk about getting clean, strong, beautiful, and healthy teeth. Don’t talk about shots, pain, needles, and drills.

Developing Good Habits that Last

Regular dental visits are a necessary part of good dental hygiene, and if you get your kids comfortable at the office, you’ll be preparing them for a life with beautiful, healthy teeth. Dental anxiety is a real thing that affects many adults, preventing them from getting the care they need.

Start early, and your children will confidently make regular checkups a part of their dental routine.