Your child’s first visit can be an enjoyable, educational time that can pave the way to excellent oral health regardless of the perceived condition of either parent’s teeth. There is one fact that seems to hold true regardless of the temperament or personality of the child, the less involved the parents are with the first dental visit, the better. Letting the dental staff control the mood and flow of the visit produces much better results. This is why most offices do not like the parent(s) to go back into the examination room with the kids. When Mom or Dad is in the room, the child knows what to do and what to say in order to get his or her way. When children are on their own, they must test the waters to see how much they can get away with. In this case, the words “No, I don’t want to” does not get them very far. Usually when a mom or dad hears this while in the room – the bribing starts: toys, ice cream, or a movie. Then it becomes out-of-hand. This never works. A referral to a pedodontist is the only way we handle this situation. My goal is to help your child have and keep a healthy mouth.
Some parents take this process as an insult to their parenting. This is far from the truth. Parenting has nothing to do with the psychology of a dental visit. Most adults are ill-equipped to control a positive dental office experience regardless of how well they know their kids. It is always a treat to me when a parent is unbelievably shocked when their child made it through a dental visit without them and with a smile on their face. When we have a good experience like this, the child keeps positive memories about their mouth and teeth. This in turn helps establish good oral hygiene habits for the rest of their life. Making regular dental visits a routine part of their life shows them that taking care of themselves is important, and having bad teeth or neglecting them is not normal.
I must mention a few Do’s and Don’ts about the days leading up to your child’s first visit:
1. There is no need to tell him or her ahead of time of the appointment. The reason for this is that he or she will tell friends and siblings. This is when the bad stories come out: “He is gonna pull all of your teeth!” or “The shots are going to hurt!”. Big brothers are an excellent source of false facts.
2. Save your first visit story for after the appointment. You may inadvertently give signs of worry or anxiety.
3. Do not try to inform the young patient of what will happen during the visit. There may be 1 word in your description that puts a confusing image in their active imagination.
4. A few words and phrases that are taboo: shot, hurt, pain, a little pinch (does a pinch feel good to you?), mosquito bite (I certainly do not want one!), ‘I don’t like the dentist, but you will’, ‘If you are a good girl, I’ll get you a prize’ (WOW, this must be bad if mom is volunteering a toy!), ‘Daddy is too chicken to go to the dentist, but you’re my big boy!’ (Heck, if Dad isn’t going, I ain’t either!)