In our first post about your child’s first dental visit, we talked about the right time to take your little one to the dentist for the first time. Today, we give our top tips to prepare this first visit at home and make sure it’s a success!
Just like parenting, if dentists want to foster a long term, trusting relationship with your child, then positive reinforcement is always the first tool of choice. Dentists who are good with kids are generally also great at reading your little one’s body language, so they know what sort of things your kids respond to positively and what is scaring them. They will also be prepared to spend the time and energy to build up a trusting relationship slowly.
However, there are always little things you can do to make this transition easier at home so that taking your kid to the dentist for the first time can be something they might even look forward to. Here are just a few of them:
Role play at home
Think about the first time you took your children to the childcare centre: you probably spent days beforehand talking up the place. Most of us will try to paint the place in a positive light and try to give our children a rough idea of what life will be like there so they are not scared.
The same can be done about taking your child to the dentist – mentally prepare your kids for a positive experience by talking it up. Make sure you liaise with your dentist beforehand if you have created any expectations so that your dentist can work with you. That can be stories about tooth fairy or rewards at the end of the appointment.
Never threaten your child
Unfortunately, one thing we hear far too often is “if you don’t behave, the dentist is going to give you a big needle”. Next thing we know, the child generally starts crying and becomes scared throughout the entire appointment. If your goal is for the child to grow more confident and trusting of the dentist over time, scaring them is probably not a good start. Let us try a few tricks first that have been shown to work over the years, and hopefully your child will respond.
Do not try to overpower your child
Just because your child is small now and you think you can hold him/her down to get the job done, doesn’t mean that’s a good idea. By doing it this way, you will create a lifetime of fear for your child, and possibly destroy any trust between them and the dentist in the future.
Just recently here at Grange Family Dental, we met a family with two young children. To our surprise, the 4 year old was completely hysteric at her first dental appointment whereas the 2 year old was cool as a cucumber and loved the experience after watching mum and dad have their treatment. After enquiring with the parents, we discovered that the older sibling had a recent appointment at the doctor when she had a head knocked. Unfortunately she was held down at that appointment to have her wound checked, and whilst that was the only option at the time, it meant she now no longer trusts anyone that resembles a doctor/dentist.
Make sure you are always visible
In the early part of the relationship building with the dentist, the only thing providing your child with any sense of security is your presence. We always recommend the parents to stay in sight of the child during the first few meetings. Your child will let you know when they are ready for you to leave, just like they did when starting daycare. Initially they will want you there constantly, but soon, they will be fine on their own.
Look happy and confident
If you read the first part of our article, you would know that children take cues from their parents all the time. So if you look happy and relaxed during your dental visit, then your child will feel the same. This rule applies at home too when you and your family discuss the dental visit.
So remember these are a few of many tricks to help your child build a healthy and lifelong relationship with your dentist, and are not meant to be strictly applied to the dot. Depending on the situation and the personality of the child, some of these will work better than others.
Your local dentist will no doubt be able to provide you with much more detailed information on nurturing your child’s confidence at the dentist. If you feel this is a good way to introduce your little one to their first dental visit, then contact your dentist today and ask for your kids to get a “ride in the chair” as part of your next dental visit.
Stay tuned for the third and final part of our series – we will talk about techniques dentists use to build trust with their new little patients.