Preparing Your Child for Their First Visit to the Dentist
I was a dental assistant for several years and learned a lot about kids and dentists. There are dentists who specialize in pediatric dentistry and they are very expensive, but they specialize in helping kids who are extremely fearful receive dental care. I feel, with the proper approach and information most people do not require their services.
Do not start out by telling your child, there's nothing to be afraid of.' Kids are smart and their antenna will zip up and get the message that you wouldn't be using the word afraid' unless there really is something to fear.
There are several excellent books about going to the dentist, my favorite is by Mercer Meyer's children's book, "Just Going To the Dentist". There are several others and you can check them out at the library or purchase them used or new on Amazon. Share the book you choose with your child a few weeks before your appointment and then a few days before. Try to remain nonchalant about it and don't make too much of a deal about it.
Ask around for a recommendation from other parents or day care providers for a dentist who works well with children. My boss was excellent with kids and never had a problem. We explained each step we took and let the kids hold the instruments. I often sat in the chair and let the kids use the mirror to look at my teeth. I have a lot of fillings so it was a good lesson for them about the importance of good dental hygiene and checkups. The more the kids know about what's going on, the more relaxed they'll be. We often gave very young children the option of sitting in Mom's lap or by themselves. This helped immensely and most often the kids ended up wanted to sit in the chair by themselves, like a grown up.
Some parents take their child to meet the dentist and check out the room and equipment ahead of time. I'm not so sure this is necessary and it may give the child the idea that you're preparing them for something they're not going to like, you don't go to such lengths when taking them to the movies or to try on clothes, so they will wonder why you're going to such lengths about the dental visit. Nonchalance is the key.
My kids grew up in an era with fluoride in the water, so never had any cavities and actually looked forward to going to the dentist because he had such cool toys and always gave them a tiny toy. My daughter especially loved the rings she got to choose from the dentist's jewel box' for girls.
Try to avoid rolling your eyes or complaining about your trips to the dentist. Kids watch grownups carefully and if you're anxious about doing something, you can be certain they will too.
The younger kids are when they start visiting the dentist, the easier things will be. Fear of the unknown is a biggie for everyone and having some stranger stick their hands in your mouth is a little unnerving. Also, it's a good idea to have your children's teeth checked early so there is something for the dentist to compare future visits with, they will be better able to notice changes in the teeth, jaw or gums that may need correction and help you avoid problems later on.
Treat the trip to the dentist much like a trip to buy shoes or any other outing. If you remain calm about the whole situation, your kids probably will too.