Who among us doesn’t get a little stressed sometimes, having to go to the dentist?
Certainly kids can get overwhelmed. Especially if the focus is on them, they’re in an unfamiliar place and there are smells that just scream something loud. Make it a bit more inclusive by having your child’s appointment after yours. It gives them the opportunity to sit and watch you with your dentist, giving them a removed experience before their physical one. They’ll get to see that being in the chair isn’t something to be afraid of and is actually quite fun, the way it’s all a bit like a Transformer. As a parent you can lead by example – you go to the dentist regularly, and that they will, too. By making the experience less intimidating, there is less likelihood of your child developing any negative associations with dentists and dentistry.
It’s particularly useful to have these experiences early in life, before there is any need for treatments – rather than creating the outcome where a child has never been to the dentist, and here they are presenting with a painful issue that requires filling or extraction.
That would be like living Dustin Hoffman’s Marathon Man scene; ironic, considering the kid would have no idea of the reference and yet the experience would be equally indelible.
Try making another dental appointment after that…
Every small town dentist offers incentives for kids because great encounters at the clinic from a young age create the foundation for life-long good dental health.
The first dental visit needs to happen as soon as your child’s first tooth comes in, and certainly no later that the first birthday. Dentists and their nurses are skilled at dealing with small people, and after a few visits your child will become familiar with the process of going to the dentist.
Be mindful of the words you use when describing a visit to the dentist. Read children’s books together about going to the dentist. Talk about dentists and what they do, and how important it is to brush their teeth and stay cavity-free. Find out what questions they have, explain the basics things the dentists will want to do during the appointment, and role play it. Keep it positive. Let them know that it might feel a bit funny and a bit weird, there’ll be some new smells and sensations, but it’s not going to hurt.
For many dentists, children’s dentistry is a priority service. Google gives many options in terms of imparting appropriate information in age-appropriate form. Kids often find it easier to know what to expect when they can visualise it. It’s knowledge for them that goes a long way toward building their confidence in new surroundings and minimising any fears the may have had.
Social media can be used positively to influence children particularly when it comes from other children. YouTube has many animations and educational videos to watch together. There are suggested games to play about healthy food for teeth, and what happens when you don’t let the Tooth Fairy help with oral hygiene.
A reward always put a smile on a child’s face so make a deal before the visit. It could be any treat that doesn’t involve lollies or chocolate because there’s a bit too much irony there – maybe a visit to their favourite place, or a new book. Nothing huge – you’re aiming to make this part of the routine of their life. You can even make it a game – for every smile in the chair, there is a star, redeemable for something special.
It’s a big thing for a kid to go to the dentist. From big things, little ones grow into happy, responsible teens and adults, focussed and proud of their oral health – and grateful for the parents that got them there.