A child’s first dental exam is an important milestone! Like many such milestones, dental check-ups can leave a lasting impression, and depending on that first exposure, can lead to positive or negative experiences in the future. Unfortunately, some children have a preexisting fear of clinical settings, such as doctor’s offices, which can trigger unpleasant memories and cause fear or discomfort during the first check-up. Regardless of past experiences, walking a child through the steps of a dental exam beforehand can help him or her understand the new experience and make future dental visits a breeze.
Here is one way to explain dental check-ups to small children:
The Three W’s
We get regular check-ups to help our teeth stay healthy and strong. We need our teeth for eating and talking, so we want to take very good care of them. Unhealthy teeth can hurt, look bad and even sometimes fall out forever, which makes it hard to eat our favorite foods.
– The dentist is a person who knows a lot about teeth. He or she knows how to help teeth stay healthy and how to fix sick teeth.
-The dental assistants help us with our check-ups and they help the dentist too.
–Pictures: The dentist uses special pictures to see the insides of your teeth and check that everything is safe and healthy. The dental assistants will take these pictures using an x-ray machine. You will need to sit very still and bite on a piece of paper so that the pictures show up clearly and the dentist can see your teeth.
–Toothbrush:The assistants use a special kind of toothbrush to make your teeth shiny and clean. Dental assistants know how to clean teeth really well. Cleaning your teeth keeps germs out of them, which keeps you and your teeth healthy and strong. While the assistant cleans your teeth, you can watch a movie or play a game, if you want to.
–Tools: After your teeth are all clean, the Dentist counts your teeth using a metal mirror and some other special tools. While counting, the dentist will check each tooth and tell us if they all look good and strong.
–Fluoride: After the dentist checks your teeth, the assistants will paint special vitamins on your teeth. These vitamins make your teeth very strong. Strong teeth stay healthier, which means you can chew all your favorite foods.
–Gifts: At the end of your visit the dentist or assistant will give you a goody bag with your own toothpaste and floss. They will even give you a toy or prize if you are good!
In the end…
Every child is different, and no one knows your special little one better than you, so you may want to change some of the wording according to the comfort level of your child. The important thing is to be honest and open about dental check-ups, so they are prepared for what lies ahead.