As a Registered Dental Hygienist, many parents ask me “When should my child’s first appointment be?” The answer to that question is as early as you can. You want to do it when they are one? Go for it. Two? Sure! I always recommend the earlier the better because it exposes them to the office. Reducing the possibility of them having fears in the future. You also see how their oral care is, if there are areas of concern. Give you the opportunity to improve their routine before cavities begin.
Yesterday was Lily’s first cleaning appointment. I will be honest, this was our second attempt. Two weeks ago we tried and as we walked into the office, Lily started crying. After 20 minutes of tears and heartache we left. We did do a lot prep, talking about the Dentist and explaining what would happen. So after that failed appointment we booked another appointment two weeks from then. Give us some more time to prep, but close enough she understood the Dentist office. I made sure we booked with the same Dental Hygienist, so Lily would have someone familiar and not have to meet a new person again.
Leading up to the appointment, we talked about the process lots. What the goal was of the appointment; to clean your teeth and see how strong they are. I practised on Lily what they would do, and made a play out of the appointment.
The night before we brought up the Dentist a lot! And the morning of, and my big tip to you is to have a reward ready. I bought Lily a doctor toy set. I showed it to her before we left and even brought it with us. Lily understood she could not open the toy till AFTER the appointment. She even made me bring the toy into the room for the appointment.
During the appointment she was amazing! She went right in and jumped into the chair. At first she laid with me but after 5 minutes she wanted to lay by herself. Having a TV in the room helped. Lily’s Dental Hygienist was able to clean her teeth, polish them with the bubblegum flavour and the Dentist came in and checked her teeth. I was so amazed, even the Dental Hygienist was. Two weeks ago we had endless tears, today a champion! The reward was the most help because as we got back in the truck to leave, all Lily said was “Mommy please open my toy”.
My goal at the next appointment is to not need a reward except for the small toy they get from the Dental Office post appointment. As a Hygienist myself, I am super proud Mom!
The funny story I have to tell you all is why Lily originally didn’t like the Dentist. She mentioned she didn’t want her teeth pulled like Chase, and that she wanted them to stay in her mouth. Thanks Paw Patrol! So we had to take the time to explain baby teeth and that they fall out naturally and at this appointment no teeth were being pulled. After a few explanations, Lily came around.
Tips to Prepare for your Child’s First Appointment
- Do a preliminary visit. Go and ask to walk around to introduce your child to the environment. Maybe meet the Dental Hygienist or Dentist they will see.
- Watch child shows that have Dentist appointments in them. Do not do Paw Patrol! Bad experience.
- Roll play! Show your child what they are going to experience, and let them do it to you. My Daughter loved this!
- Rewards, bring a new toy or tell your child what you’re going to do afterwards. Having them focus on something they really want makes a great distraction.
- Tell them they will be safe, use simple words and be patient. If the first time isn’t a success it’s ok. Book another appointment shortly after and try again. Dental offices are similar to a Doctors office, they are intimidating.
I will definitely do another post after her next six month appointment, see if we were successful again. Or if we needed another big reward to get her cooperation. I’ve booked the appointment with the same Hygienist so Lily sees a similar face next time.
Remember to be patient at the appointment, but I highly recommend you get your child in as early as possible. To help reduce future fears, helps increase their independence and makes for easier appointments. Also helps you make sure you’re doing the correct routine to give them optimal oral health.
Thanks for reading,