Your toddler’s first visit to the dentist is an important foundation step for their dental future. How’s how to ensure that it’s a positive experience for all. By Dr Maryam Dawjee
Just as regular checks at the paediatrician are essential in your baby’s early days, as your baby becomes a toddler, regular dental visits become just as important.
When is the right time to visit the dentist?
It is advisable to start your child’s dental visits from as early as two years old. This forms the foundation and trust which is essential to a successful dental experience. This first dental visit is not only for the benefit of your two-year-old, but is more importantly advantageous to you, in preparing and providing you with the information and know-how that you need.
4 questions you should ask before making an appointment with a dentist:
- Is the dental practice child friendly?
- Was the reception willing to address telephonic questions or make you feel at ease? Were they responsive?
- Were you able to get information with regards to the latest technology or hear what the practice has to offer for their pediatric patients?
- Ideally, look for a practice where the latest laser technology is used, as this means no more drilling, and ultimately, pain-free dentistry for your family!
Once you’ve had your first consultation, assess the suitability from there with the following questions:
- Was the dental team gentle and kind? If your child was uneasy did they display patience?
- Were you allowed to remain with your child while he or she was in the consulting room? This is very important in terms of reassuring your child about this new experience.
- Did the dentist focus on your child’s specific needs and were they able to address your concerns?
- Did you leave feeling as though you were in possession of very specific information relative to the care of your child’s mouth and teeth?
- Were you advised on the expected growth and development of your child’s teeth as well as informed on regular dental care appointment structures?
- Did you leave feeling empowered?
How to prepare your child for their first dental visit:
- Your child’s teeth are visible and tangible which makes it easy to generate awareness about dental care. Practice counting teeth with your child and ask him to notice the various types of teeth he has in his mouth, from molars to incisors.
- Speak positively about the first dental visit. The biggest mistake that parents make is that they create fear about the dentist, using the dentist as a threat if teeth aren’t well cared for. I try to cultivate positivity and excitement at each visit.
- Discuss what he can expect at his first visit: A lot of time will be spent talking and interacting with your child. This visit may not even involve your child sitting on the dental chair. It’s more about creating familiarity, with the rooms, with the faces and with the dentist.
- Bring siblings together. Often younger children model their behavior on their older sibling.
- Allow children to discover their own feeling towards the experience and to share as much as possible.
- Focus on positive reinforcement in the form of words, and not possessions, or sweets as a reward.
Do’s and don’ts for the first visit:
- Take time to play “dentist” with your child at home.
- Read your child a story about going to the dentist.
- Make the dental appointment for a time when your child is comfortable and rested.
- Don’t transfer your fears onto your. Don’t ask your child if it is painful during the process: rather used positive reinforcement and affirmations.
- Avoid using negative words like: hurt, shot, needle, or drill around your child.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.