Tips & Advice - Going to the Dentist
To ensure that your child has the best chance to develop strong and healthy teeth you should encourage them to Establish a proper oral hygiene routine when they are young.
Along with brushing your child’s teeth twice a day, the British Dental Association recommends taking them to see a dentist every six months. These visits should be positive events, rather than something that your child dreads, so it’s important to help your child feel at ease about going to the dentist.
BEFORE THE VISIT
Before talking to your child about a trip to the dentist, think about your own feelings about dentists. Children pick up easily on adults’ emotions, so try not to pass on any of your own anxieties to your child. A routine check-up should not be something for your child to fear.
Explain to your child about what a Dentist does and how they help us to keep our teeth healthy.
Talk about the importance of having healthy teeth and gums.
If possible, start taking your child to the dentist when their first tooth appears, at around six months old, so that they get used to the dentist’s. However, don’t worry if you haven’t done that. You could start by taking your child along to watch when you’re having a routine dental appointment so that they know what to expect.
If your child is nervous about the visit, encourage them to take a favourite toy along with them or reassure them that you will be there or that they can sit on your knee.
The idea of someone looking into their mouth, and perhaps using a bright light or strange equipment might be frightening. Discuss with your child what will happen during the visit – sitting on a big chair, opening their mouth wide and the dentist counting their teeth.
Use story books or pictures to help your child understand.
Make sure you keep any conversations positive – avoid using words such as ‘drill’, ‘extractions’ or ‘fillings’.
Prepare any questions you’d like to ask before you go to the dentist – perhaps you want reassurance on cleaning your child’s teeth or appropriate milestones for tooth growth.
HOW YOUR CHILD IS BENEFITING
A trip to the dentist can be a great learning experience for young children. Covering all 7 areas of learning:
Understanding the world-Going to the dentist will help your child understand that there are people whose job it is to help us in our day-to-day lives. It will also make them more aware of the different roles that people have. Having a positive visit to the dentist can help take a child’s fears away and will help towards them feeling at ease when they need to be seen by other medical professionals.
Language development- Going to the dentist is a great opportunity to introduce new key vocabulary specific to the dentist visit, such as ‘enamel’, ‘jaws’, ‘surgery’, ‘hygienist’ and ‘appointment’.
Maths- Talk about how many teeth your child has and how the dentist counts them, count how long you need to keep your mouth open for. You could introduce the concept of time by discussing how you have made an appointment and how that means you need to be at the dentist for a certain time.
Personal, Social and emotional- Opportunities to interact Going into a new place can make your child shy, so don’t force them to speak to the people. However, they may want to say hello or goodbye to the dentist, or help you to make a follow-up appointment.
Physical development- Personal hygiene Discussing what our teeth are used for – eating, talking, smiling – and why it is important to look after them will help your child to understand personal hygiene routines. Explain how not looking after our teeth can result in tooth decay, which is when a tooth gets a hole in it. This can link to keeping our bodies healthy by being careful about what we eat and drink.
literacy- You can share books about visiting the dentist together and read the books and magazines in the waiting area. You can also look at the posters on the walls.
Expressive arts and design- Singing songs about the dentist and drawing pictures about your child’s experience.
AFTER THE EVENT
Visiting the dentist may inspire your child to learn more about people whose job it is to help us. So, talk to them about other people in the community who help us to stay safe and healthy, such as the emergency services, opticians, doctors and refuse collectors. Perhaps look out for open days at the local fire station. Take the opportunity too to remind your child about the links between healthy teeth and healthy eating – and explain why we should avoid eating or drinking lots of sweet and sugary things.
Great books to support your Child:
Going to the Dentist by Anne Civardi
Designed to introduce young Children to the unfamiliar situation of visiting the Dentist in an amusing and friendly way.
We're going to the Dentist by Marion Cocklico
This novelty book with a sweet story has fun flaps to lift and mechanisms to move.