Avoiding dentist phobia

Tips and tricks to help make your child’s first dentist visit a positive, non-frightening experience.

Your child’s first visit to a dentist may be a little nerve-racking, but there’s no reason why it needs to be a negative experience.  
“A first visit to the dentist for a child can be as exciting as going to an amusement park – after all, there’s a chair that goes up, down, back and forwards,” says Dr Mark Psillakis, Executive Clinical Consultant with Dental Corporation and Associate Dentist at Bexley Dental in Sydney.
“First appointments are usually for the child to familiarise themselves with the dentist. I more often than not manage to get the child to agree to open their mouths so I can assess the level of oral hygiene and that there are no pressing problems that need immediate attention. 
“Practitioners with significant numbers of children in their patient base will generally have toys, balloons, toothbrushes and other rewards for children that serve to create a bond and ensure the child is happy to return. I often inflate a glove and have the child draw a face on it – that serves as an effective ice-breaker.”
child snuggling with mother

Ways to help your kids have a happy first visit to the dentist

  • It can be helpful for children to see older siblings in the dentist chair during a non-invasive check-up and clean appointment first – so long as the sibling is calm and relaxed.
  • Always prepare the child in advance, and with excitement, about going to their first dental appointment. They should be reassured about how much fun it is.
  • Be sure to make the appointment for a time of the day when your child is relaxed and happy – a tired child is often a miserable and uncooperative child.
  • Ideally, the dentist should be happy and comfortable treating children and prepared to spend the time needed to make your child relax. 
What happens during the early years in a dental chair can have a significant impact on your child’s dental journey throughout their life. So it’s also important for you to keep calm and encourage your child to stay positive.  “Keep in mind that phobias are learnt responses and this being your child’s first appointment, they have not experienced anything unpleasant at the hands of a dentist. It is important that young children aren’t exposed to anxieties that our life experiences may have caused,” says Dr Psillakis.

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