First haircut, first word, first day of school… all monumental moments throughout you and your child’s life. Why should their first dental visit be any different?
We all remember going to the dentist when we were younger. Most of my patients tend to associate their times at the dentist not so positively. With greater education for dental professionals, fabulous dental companies (i.e. Brush-Baby) and parents we are changing the way the future generations view their dental experience.
Building relationships with the whole family is very important; therefore I like to encourage parents from the beginning to bring their children along with them. Bringing your children at this early stage will allow them to become acclimatised to this new environment, as we all know there are very distinct smells and noises at the dental practice. If we can associate these smells, noises and visits with happy times then children quickly realise there is nothing to worry about.
You should aim to bring your child along to their first dental check once they receive their first tooth.
In other cases where children are a little older or maybe you are moving dental practice, it is a great idea to pre-empt them for the situation they will soon be in. Therefore showing your children their favourite characters attending the dentist will make the situation fun and have them looking forward to coming along to meet their dentist, therapist or hygienist. Peppa Pig is normally a big hit.
So once you have explained what they can expect and they have seen Peppa Pig have a seat in the dentist chair, it can be a fun exercise for all the family to practice “opening wide” or recreating some lion roars! (One of my personal favourites and such a fun activity.)
So the big day has come to attend the very first important visit to the dentist. Let’s make it a family affair with mum, dad and any siblings. Have mum and dad go first to let your children see how easy and effortless this can be. After everyone has had their turn in the chair, normally the little ones are very eager to have a shot themselves, ideally encouraging them to sit on the chair on their own if possible.
There are many ways to make their first visit memorable for all the right reasons to encourage good behaviour and co-operation, ensure you have plenty of time so that everyone feels relaxed and let the tooth checking begin.
Meet Isme, 16 months old, attended with her mum, dad & older sister. After watching her dad have his hygiene visit, Isme could not wait to sit on my chair on her own. During her dad’s hygiene she was walking around asking to be lifted so she could see what I was doing.
Allowing children to freely and safely see allows them to understand that this is a safe and normal environment. When it came to her turn in my chair she didn’t want to leave. We used Brush-Baby’s yummy Applemint Toothpaste to polish her baby teeth. Normally for someone so young I would have not have thought to expect so much. After all it was her first encounter of the dental practice. But it goes to show that when children feel safe they are more willing to trust.
Author: Natalie Wong BSc Oral Health Sciences, Dental Hygienist & Therapist
Origin - Glasgow, Scotland
Currently based - Dubai, U.A.E