Taking your baby to the dentist for the first time can be scary for both of you. For your baby, it’s an all new environment with bright lights and weird smells and these weird things that make these weird sounds. It can be scary.
For you, it’s your baby, and you don’t want anything bad to happen to them. That’s understandable. This experience can be overwhelming, but it’s a totally normal feeling to feel anxious, for both you and your baby, before your visit. So, here are some do’s and don'ts for taking your baby to the dentist:
- Visit the dentist at a young age
This gives your baby more time to get comfortable with going to the dentist. The sooner your baby can get comfortable going to the dentist, the better their chances of not being anxious the next time you go. Your baby’s first dentist appointment should be around their first birthday.
- Talk with your baby about the dentist
One of the major causes of anxiety is not knowing what’s going to happen, so talk or show your baby what’s going to happen. Let them know what the dentist might do, and make sure to explain it in a positive way. Make the cavities bad guys, and the dentist is the superhero there to defeat the bad guys. Let your baby know that the dentist is not someone to be afraid of. You can also tell your baby that you will be there with them the entire time.
- Positive reinforcement
If your baby did an amazing job, take them to the park to play or get them their favorite snack (no sugary foods) to reward them for their job well done. Your dentist may give them a treat from the goodie box or a sticker during or after their appointment. This will make them happy and excited for their next visit.
- Schedule your appointment wisely
Make sure your baby gets enough sleep the night before and a good breakfast before going. This helps reduce anxiety, but it also keeps with your routine.
- Talk with your dentist
Let them know your baby has anxiety about coming to them. The dentist can help a lot with helping to calm your baby by talking them through what they’re doing and keeping them happy. They could even give them high fives or other positive reinforcements during the appointment to make your baby feel happy. In more complex procedures, you could ask the dentist to give your baby laughing gas to help them stay calm during it.
- Don’t surprise your baby
Studies have shown that routines help kids to stay calm, so treat the dentist appointment like any other routine activity. Let your baby know ahead of time that you’re going to the dentist, and also tell them what’s going to happen before, during, and after the appointment. This can help with associating dentist appointments with other normal things and help keep them calm and maybe even excited to go.
- Don’t let your fears carry over to your baby
Your baby is very susceptible to your feelings, so if you’re anxious about the dentist visit, your baby will pick up on that and it will make them feel even more anxious than what they already feel. This goes for any emotion, so they can also pick up on any fear or unease that you have. This is why it is also important for you to feel comfortable with the dentist as much as it is for your baby.
- Don’t punish your baby for acting out
Feeling anxious before a dentist appointment is normal, and these ways can help your baby feel calmer, but it doesn’t always happen. Some babies have a higher level of anxiety that can’t simply be quelled by nice words and stickers. They may cry or make a scene, but your job as their parent is to help them through it. Overtime, their anxiety will go down, but they need your help and love to make that happen.
Going to the dentist can be scary, but there are lots of ways to dull that fear. Just remember to stay calm and focus on your baby. Watch them and act accordingly to make sure they’re calm and comfortable. The sooner your baby learns not to fear the dentist, the happier both you and your baby will be.