How to Prep a Child for their Next Dental Appointment

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The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents take their baby to a dentist no later than their first birthday, but preferably soon after the first tooth starts to pop through. One advantage of having regular dental visits from an early age is that your child will be more comfortable with the idea of going to the dentist as they get older.

Infants need little or no preparation for a dental appointment. This is usually just a “peek-a-boo appointment” without pain or discomfort. As they become toddlers and preschoolers, however, children will be able to understand where they are going, and will no doubt have some questions and perhaps anxieties.

Our dentists in Norcross, Ga., provide dental care for children of all ages. They know that preparing a child for a dental visit is essential for reduce fear and anxiety both for the child and parents.

Minimize Negative Words and Images

Many dentists suggest that you not use the term “doctor” when talking to your child about them. This may cause children to confuse going to the dentist with going to their pediatrician’s office, which has probably been the site of painful immunization shots.

Do not let them hear you or anyone else in the family (including older siblings) expressing apprehension or talking about dental procedures they have had.

If possible, bring your child to one of your own appointments at our Norcross dental office to watch you have your teeth cleaned. Do not, though, bring them when you have any drilling or other procedure done.

Preparing for an Exam

  • Preparation starts when you make the appointment. Try to schedule it at a time of day when your child will be well rested and most likely to be cooperative. Usually this is in the morning, but all children are different.
  • Give your child an idea of what to expect and what the Norcross dentist and hygienist will be doing. There are plenty of books and videos made especially for children about going to the dentist. Find one that is appropriate for your child’s age and level of understanding.
  • Remind your child of the fun aspects of the last visit. Maybe they got a toy or met a staff member whom they liked.
  • Encourage your child to share any fears they might have about the visit  and to ask any questions they may have.

Preparing for the First Filling

At some point, your child may need to have a cavity filled or some other procedure done. That will take some extra preparation. Here are some tips that our Norcross dentists have found helpful.

  • Answer all of your child’s questions honestly without frightening them. Avoid words like “needle,” “shot,” or “hurt.” Use more innocuous terms like “poke,” “magic wand,” and “boo-boo.”
  • Emphasize the positive. Explain how lucky your child is to have a good dentist who can fix his teeth. Now is not the time for a lecture about poor brushing or eating habits.
  • If acting things out makes your child feel more comfortable, you can play dentist, letting them use gloves and a mask, or they can play dentist with their dolls.
  • Give your child some control over the visit by letting them choose a stuffed toy or a doll to bring, or allowing them to choose their outfit.
  • Provide something fun to look forward to after the visit. Tell your little one they can choose somewhere to go or something to do when they are finished at the dentist. This will help take their mind off of what is going to happen in the office. It may be best to plan the activity for later in the day or evening after the effects of the injection or anesthesia have worn off.

Whether your child is having a simple check-up a cavity filled, one of the most important things to remember is to remain calm and positive yourself and to encourage everyone else in the family to do so. Even if you are nervous, pretending to be relaxed for your child will help you de-stress yourself as well.