The first visit is similar to a well-baby check-up at the pediatrician. Infants usually sit on a parent’s lap while the parent sits in a knee-to-knee position with the doctor. Toddlers sometimes sit in the dental chair by themselves or on their mom or dad’s lap if they need a little more support. Children may be may be fearful at the first visit.
Here are some reasons that children may be fearful:
- Young age
- A previous negative visit to a physician, dentist, or hospital
- Vaccination or “shots” at physician’s office
- Parents, relatives, friends have mentioned to child that they will have a “shot” or have a tooth “pulled”
- Parents, friends, or relatives have mentioned to child directly or over-heard by child that they “hate” going to the dentist
- Child is not sure of what will happen or the fear of the unknown.
- Anxiety associated with a medical condition
Here are some things that you can do to promote a pleasant first visit:
- Be positive.
- Please do not say, “It won’t hurt!” Children don’t hear their parent use that expression when they bring their children to the grocery store, for example. When parents use it at the dental office, a place that the child has never visited, it arouses immediate suspicion. It is better to say, “It will be easy!”
- Other words to avoid: pain, shot, pull, drill, pinch, mosquito bite.
- Usually the less preparation, the better. Despite good intentions, parents often give incorrect or misleading information. The dental team is uniquely prepared to comfortably guide the child through the visit and will explain each step of the process.
- Please realize that it is normal for an infant or very young child to cry initially.
- Please realize that a cleaning may not be completed at the first visit. Children adjust to procedures at a different rate. We proceed based on the child’s pace.
- Sometimes parents try to talk to the child while the dentist is talking or demonstrating procedures. Children can get mixed signals. Try to permit the dentist to lead the child.
- Previous experience has revealed that it is better to have only one parent in the treatment room. Exceptions are made for patients with special needs.