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Visiting the dentist isn’t usually at the top of anyone’s list, but you can make it an easy experience when it comes to your kids. I knew that sitting still while someone probed her mouth with shiny and interesting tools would be a challenge for my daughter. But having healthy teeth is big in our household, which made it important to turn a visit to the dentist into a fun and interesting adventure.
Here are are a few ways to make your next visit easy as pie.
- Pick the right dentist: Your dentist might not be the right fit for your child. Look into a pediatric dental office that specializes in working with young kids. This way you know you’re connecting your child with a professional who’s comfortable working with wiggle worms. And you can keep your child’s teeth happy and healthy by using a kid friendly toothbrush while developing healthy habits, which avoids problems before they start.
- Start early: As a pre-prep for routine dental exams, I brought my daughter along to a few of my regular cleanings. This gave her a chance to check everything out — and get lots of attention from the dental team. Before leaving, my tot was invited to take a seat in the big chair while the dentist shined the light on her teeth. But you can start scheduling visits as soon as your little one pops a few teeth. It will get her comfortable early with regular visits.
- Do some imaginary play: Get out all the stuffed animals and encourage some imaginary play. You can each take turns being the dentist and patient and role-play some different scenarios and cleaning their teeth together. Then create a few pretend dental tools and let your child take care of all her stuffies.
- Keep the language simple: There’s no need to go into long explanations about a trip to the dentist — just keep it simple with a prechat about how the dentist is going to look at your child’s teeth and also clean them. Now is not the time to discuss what is involved with getting a filling.
- Be flexible: Yes, you might be feeling more overwhelmed about your child’s first visit to the dentist than she is, making it so important to be calm and flexible. Understand that your dentist has dealt with many young children and might feel your little one will be better behaved if you head out to the waiting room. Let the pros take over and assist however you can.
- Avoid bribing your child: A trip to the dentist shouldn’t be rewarded or prompted with a bribe. Try to avoid turning the visit into a big deal but instead focus on how seeing the dentist helps keep your teeth healthy — just like brushing your teeth twice a day. You can even make it fun with brushing apps that engage kids. If it becomes a natural, normal behavior, it desensitizes the experience.
- Don’t overshare: This is not the time to share your discomforts with visiting the dentist. Keep your own personal stories of root canals gone wrong and cracked teeth to yourself. When and if something more than a cleaning needs to take place, let the dentist step in and explain procedures.