When Dr. George Thomas Lynch, DMD of Cobblestone Kids offered to write a guest post about taking the anxiety out of your child's first dental visit, I jumped at the opportunity. I know this can be a tough task for some parents. But, Dr. George's insight and expert advice are sure to help children walk into the dentist office with a smile, and walk out with an even brighter smile!
As a pediatric dentist, it is my goal to make each child’s — and parent’s — first visit to my office stress-free and rewarding. Often, moms and dads will tell my staff that their child is nervous about their visit and wondering what the dentist is going to do at that appointment. Those are common concerns for children, so I always remind the parents that our own fears as adults can translate to our kids through the non-verbal cues we transmit. I encourage them to allow their children to form their own perception of visiting the dentist.
Here are a few tips for making your child's first appointment a pleasant experience:
BE POSITIVE … when it comes to teeth! Oral healthcare is strongly linked to overall health, and that is why we should be excited to promote healthy teeth, tongues and gums. Stress the importance of good dental-hygiene practices (brushing teeth, using a mouth rinse, eating healthy foods) and their correlation to keeping kids healthy so they can grow and play.
Never share unfortunate experiences that you or another family member had in the past (i.e., “When I was your age, I didn’t brush my teeth, and the dentist had to ‘pull’ and ‘drill’ them!”) Scare tactics only do what they are intended to do, which is create hysteria. They create a negative association to oral healthcare and can result in opposite outcomes.
Read books and take advantage of the many tools the Internet has to offer that explain what the dentist does and why we should take care of our teeth. This will help to create optimistic expectations of the first visit. Keep in mind that these resources are not all created equally, so you'll want to review them first to make sure they explain scenarios clearly and positively.
Visit your dentist’s website. Almost every dental office has a site that will allow you to show your child pictures of the office and the dentist so you can both become familiar with what he or she looks like before meeting in person.
Be EXCITED about the first visit and talk it up! Explain that the dentist is someone who helps kids to grow strong and healthy, and that he or she is going to help “count teeth.” It also helps to tell your child that he or she will receive stickers and prizes after the exam is complete. This presents an easy, goal-oriented task that your child can understand, which is then followed with positive reinforcement!
About Dr. George
Dr. George Lynch is a Board-certified pediatric dentist and member of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association. He has been featured on Parenting Perspective blogs by ABC News anchors Cecily Tynan and Tamala Edwards, as well as BabyBites.com. Learn more by visiting the website for his practice, Cobblestone Kids.
Photo credit: Mark Gisi/Tabula Creative