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Getting Ready For Your Child’s First Trip to the Dentist

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YOU’VE BEEN SWOONING over your child’s smile since the day you met. And that smile only got sweeter with each tiny tooth. Now that your child has a mouthful of teeth she’s using to bite apples and occasionally arms, it’s time for her first trip to the dentist.

Our Kelowna dentists suggest you make that trip before your child’s first birthday. Wondering how you’re going to get your little one to sit nice in the dentist’s chair for a proper exam?

Here are some tips to help you both get ready for that first trip to the dentist:

Before you go…

  • Read books to your child about going to the dentist. Stories showing your child’s favourite characters going to the dental clinic help your child get familiar with the world of dental care—the dentist, the chair, and the instruments. Some of the most popular children’s books about going to the dentist include The Berenstein Bears Visit the Dentist; Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer); Just Going to the Dentist (Little Critter); and First Look and Find: Sesame Street, I can do it! (Elmo).
  • Practice good dental care, and make it fun. Invite your child to brush his teeth as soon as he can hold his very own toothbrush. Brushing every day, and next to you brushing your own teeth, helps him get into a routine. Sing lines from bedtime books about brushing teeth: “Now brush your teeth. When you brush the ones on top, don’t forget the ones beneath!” (Goodnight Little Bunny). One Kelowna family refers to the toothpaste as ‘Grasshopper Goo’ to make brushing sound a little silly.
  • Bring your child in to your own dental appointments and 6-month cleanings. This way the child has been into the office 2-3 times and observed what happens before it is their turn. They have seen their parent’s go through it, and kids learn the most from observing their parents. Then when it is the child’s appointment, we many times start with what we call a Happy Visit. Like a McDonald’s happy meal, we want it to be a very positive and stress-free first appointment that we don’t charge for. It is just what you described, sitting in the chair, usually on the parent’s lap. Handling the mirror and some foreign dental things themself, trying on a glove, etc. This way the things aren’t scary, but familiar things they have touched once we handle them. I have them put the mirror in their mouths themselves, and so on. This makes it all that much more familiar for when the dentists use them.


On the day at the dental clinic…

  • Tell your child, “You’re going to the dentist today!” No matter how small, children appreciate time to get used to an idea. Once the thought of going to the dentist is in her little head, she’ll arrive at the dentist’s office thinking “Wow!”
  • Point out the objects and people they recognize from their books. “Ava, can you see some floss?” A real-life game of look-and-find makes the visit feel like a treasure hunt.
  • Take it slow in the dentist’s chair. Once you meet the dentist, let your son get used to the space before asking him to sit nicely in the chair. If he’s not comfortable, dentists are usually happy to let him sit on your lap.
  • Have your child count their teeth. Count one tooth for each finger and toe they have. Then have the dentist count with their ‘tooth counter’.
  • Praise her. Let her know what a good little patient she’s being so she knows what kind of behaviour is expected and rewarded.
  • Help him pick a prize. Most dental clinics offer their little patients a prize, from plastic cars to sticky frogs. If your son seems anxious during the cleaning, the dentist might bring out the goodie bag early to distract him and help him feel more like going to the dentist is fun.

At Okanagan Smiles Kelowna Dentistry, we recommend brushing your child’s teeth for them in addition to their own efforts until at least the age at which they can tie their own shoe laces. It takes effort and skill to develop the correct muscle memory to efficiently remove plaque from all tooth surfaces.

Whether you’re visiting us for cosmetic or general dentistry, we provide a comfortable experience with results that will last. Contact us to book an appointment today!

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