Tooth Terror: Getting Ready for Your Child’s First Trip to Dentist

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The following is a guest post by Aaron Schulman

When you decide to have a child your life is filled with enjoying your special little one’s “firsts.”  You enjoy his first steps, first words, the first time he runs up to you and gives you a great big hug. 

Also among these “firsts” is the first trip to the dentist, and this may not be as heartwarming as the other enjoyable moments. But with a little thought and preparation, it doesn’t have to be the nightmare many people make it out to be.

Here’s how you can make your child’s first trip to the dentist a not-so-scary experience:

1.  Preparation

Prepare your child for her first trip to the dentist by reading books or watching videos about going to the dentist.  There are several children’s books and videos available that can help you introduce this concept to the child.  After watching the video or reading the book you can ask them if they have any questions about what their trip will be like.

Schedule a non-invasive visit.  This will give your child the opportunity to get rid of the “new experience jitters” without having to have the added stress of getting an exam.  This will also give him the opportunity to meet the dentist and to ask questions.

2.  Put your child in “control”

Letting your child have some of the “control” during the visit can allow them to feel as though things are happening the way they want them too.  For example, let them choose what to wear that day.  The last time I was at the dentist I saw a “little lady bug” getting an exam.  What a great idea – let them wear that special costume or silly hat that they always want to wear out and about!  Be sure the outfit isn’t going to get in the way of the exam, but other than that let them have fun with it.

Another way to place your child in “control” is to allow them to pick the special treat that you will experience together after the visit. Getting them to focus on ice cream or playing in the park afterwards is a good way to help your child work through the first dentist visit nerves.  It could even be as simple as getting to watch their favorite television show when they get home.  The important thing to remember is to always follow through.  Let them have their reward of choice for completing the visit, no matter how they behaved.

3.  Honesty is the best policy

Be honest with your child about where you are going.  I have heard stories about parents telling their child they are going to go someplace fun and then they pull into the dentist office with a big “surprise!”  This is only setting your child up for a bad first experience with the dentist.  You should talk positively about the trip to the dentist, but don’t set your child up with hopes of clowns and cotton candy, when truly they are getting fluoride.

The other thing to be honest about is what is going to happen at the dentist.  If your child asks, “Is it going to hurt?” Don’t lie and say, “Everything will be great; it is just like a tickle.”  Let them know the truth that it may feel a little strange, but if it gets to be too much you can always take a break.

Even though the first trip to the dentist isn’t usually among those first experiences that we tend to treasure forever, it doesn’t need to be remembered as a nightmare either.  Taking the time to think things through and figuring out what will work best for your child can make the experience positive.  Remember, a positive first experience can lead to a lifetime of proper dental care.

Aaron Schulman is an active member of the dental community and currently works on the Advisory Board with 5th Avenue Acquisitions & Venture Capitalists.  He works with dentists and assists them on how to sell a dental practice or assisting those interested in buying a dental practice.  Aaron is also a loving husband and father.  He and his wife, Jennifer, are currently preparing their two youngest for their first dental experience.

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