“I’d rather have a root canal.”
How many times have you used going to the dentist as a way to describe something unpleasant? A trip to the dentist’s chair has become synonymous with pain and discomfort, and this is just as true for kids as it is for adults. Having someone poke around in your mouth while you stare up into a bright light just isn’t fun, and it could be downright frightening for a young child.
Fortunately, going to the dentist doesn’t have to be awful. You can prepare your child for a successful visit by following these six tips:
- Avoid Negative Talk
All those jokes about root canals? They’re ubiquitous, but little kids have big ears, and they’ll pick up on your attitude about going to the dentist. Try to talk positively about the dentist whenever it comes up, and avoid the jokes or outright fearful statements – at least when your kids are within earshot. This will keep your child from forming a negative opinion before even setting foot in the dentist’s office.
- Explore the Dentist’s Office
Long before you set up an appointment for your child to sit in the dentist’s chair for a cleaning, bring her along on your own visits to the dentist. This will allow her to get used to the office and the staff, and the familiarity with the surroundings will go a long way toward keeping her calm and comfortable when it’s time for her first dental exam.
- Play Dentist
Before the big day, try using some imaginary play to prepare your child for his first dentist appointment. You can use stuffed animals to act out a trip to the dentist, or you can take turns role playing dentist and patient with your child. Injecting some fun into the event will be calming, and the repetition will also be helpful in letting your child know what to expect.
- Make Brushing Fun
If your kids have clean teeth, their visit to the dentist or hygienist will go much more smoothly – cutting down on all that scraping will make for a less painful appointment. Encourage good brushing habits early on by giving your child a toothbrush designed for kids: Soft bristles, a small head and fun cartoon characters are all good features to look for. Creating healthy routines during toddlerhood will make brushing second nature – a lifelong skill for those looking for quick dentist visits.
- Babies Need Oral Hygiene, Too
Baby teeth aren’t permanent, but it’s still crucial to take good care of them. Even babies need their teeth wiped down, and you can gently floss the spaces between baby teeth. Understanding when to expect baby teeth to come in will help you recognize any problems with your baby’s teeth early on so you can seek help right away.
- Choose a Kid-Friendly Dentist Office
If you sense that your own dentist might not be a great fit for your toddler or preschooler, look around for a more kid-friendly dental office. There’s no rule that says your whole family needs to visit the same health care providers, after all. These days there are many dentists that specialize in pediatric dentistry, and their offices have brightly colored waiting rooms, lots of toys and specially trained staff to make that biannual appointment something to look forward to.
When you take the extra time to prepare your child for that all-important first trip to the dentist, you’re much more likely to set the stage for success. With the right attitude, going to the dentist can become a fun event for your child.