At Kennett Road Dental Practice, we are all about families. There is nothing more important in the world than your family, whatever form that comes in. We see parents everyday worrying about their baby’s first trip to the dentist. Will they scream? Will everyone look at us? Will the people in scary masks frighten him or her and what if something is actually wrong with their teeth? We’ve heard every possible anxiety and worry new parents experience when approaching the issue and we’re here to provide helpful, comforting advice on how to make your young child’s visit to the dentist a good experience for everyone.
When should your baby go to the dentist? Your baby should ideally visit the dentist before they are one year old. Although they may not have many teeth at the time you bring them, it is very beneficial to get them used to the lights, sounds and smells of the dental practice. This will make things go smoother later on when they have more teeth to examine. The NHS suggests you “take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can advise you on how to prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage.”
What if something IS wrong? At this stage it’s very unlikely there could be anything wrong that won’t correct itself in time. On the off chance we can identify a dental issue, it’s best to know about it sooner rather than later and to be proactive to protect their future adult teeth
How can you prepare your child for their first visit? There are many books and television programs aimed at preparing young children for their trip to see the dentist. Peppa Pig has a good book which we used to keep in the waiting room before the onset of the pandemic, but you may be able to borrow it from the library now they are open again.
CBeebies has an episode of ‘My Very First’ about visiting the dentist. Even ‘Sesame Street’ has a video about visiting the dentist which can be helpful in preparing your child. You should speak positively about going to the dentist and enforce this with older siblings too. Hearing negative things about visiting the dentist is likely to cause the child anxiety to some level before they even get to the surgery. Even if they aren’t talking yet, they are likely still able to understand a lot of what you say and pick up on tone of voice, so watch what they hear before your visit. You can also make a big thing of getting to “ride on” or “drive” the big dentist chair. This should make them feel more excited than resistant. Also, the idea of being able to see their own teeth on the television via a small camera should hold some level of curiosity for most children.
What should you bring with you? It’s a good idea to bring some calming toys and activities with you to the waiting room. It might be a good time to whip out a children’s book about visiting the dentist, so they can recognise some of the things they are seeing in the book nearby. Bringing a favourite teddy or doll with them is a grand idea because we can check their teeth too. Teddy bears are notorious for neglecting their dental health, so we’re happy to see to their toy’s teeth free of charge while your child visits the dentist!
If you would like to bring their pram or pushchair into the dental practice with you, it’s perfectly fine with us. There is plenty of manoeuvring room in the patient areas, so if they’re more comfortable in their buggy where they feel it’s safe, feel free to wheel them in. We only ask that you refrain from doing high-speed doughnuts in the waiting areas as it’s not really any one person’s job to clean up the tyre marks on the floor!
What we can do to help your child. We are invested in creating a comfortable and family-friendly atmosphere at Kennett Road Dental Practice. If for no other reason than that we hate to see anyone upset. If the child is upset, then so will the parent be and invariably the noise of a crying child will carry to the waiting room and cause a chain reaction of panic amongst our younger patients. We’ll go to any lengths to avoid that. We’re happy to use mirrors, toys, incentivising rides on our up and down chairs and stickers to create a positive experience. Rest assured that at one point or more in our careers every dentist has had to work around the arm of a parent holding a smartphone under their nose, playing ‘In the Night Garden’ at full volume to calm a nervous child. It happens and we’ll work around it as best we can. We’re all there for the same reason, we want the best for your child.
What you can do to help. One of the best things you can do if you have other children is to book back-to-back appointments for both of them. That way the little one can see their big brother or sister go first and they’ll feel more prepared for their turn, knowing what to expect. You could also sit your child on your lap if they are nervous and talk to them during the appointment. That way you get a free ride in the dentist’s chair too. We know you want to.
The first dentist trip is a learning curve for both parent and child, so don’t worry. Sometimes these things go well and both parent and baby leave with good behaviour stickers. That’s ideal, but sometimes it can feel more like trying to fold gravy as with any new experience with an infant. The best thing you can do is to remain calm and positive, be prepared with toys and Makka Pakka’s dance moves to distract your child. Above all it’s important for you to remember that visiting the dentist is not to be avoided on account of your anxiety or theirs. It’s really important that regular dental visits start now and remain consistent in your child’s life so they will be used to it and be less inclined to throw a tantrum later on.