I’m a mom of three, and as so, I’ve had a few terrible experiences with taking my kids to the dentist. Each time I take them to the dentist, I swear it will be the last time! Sometimes it’s like torture, I tell you… and not just for the kids. Often times, the dentist’s office can be more stressful for the parents than anyone else. But I’m learning, and the last time we went, we all left with smiles! So today, I want to share my ten tips for a tear-free dentist visit for kids.
Prepare the kids by letting them know before hand that you are going to the dentist. Make sure they understand that they will be laying down in a crazy chair that makes into a bed, and the dentist will be looking at their teeth, and he might even give their teeth a good wash. One thing we’ve done that really helped was to play like we were at the dentist before we went. I let the kids pretend they were the dentist and they looked into my mouth and pretended to find all sorts of stuff, and then I pretended I was the dentist, and it gave me a chance to talk about what the dentist would want them to do. I think this can help them realize it’s not scary at all.
2. Be Positive
Don’t ever let anyone talk negative about the dentist to your child. All it takes is someone saying “I hate the dentist!” to really freak your kid out. I make sure I talk the dentist up… He’s so smart! His office has so many neat tools! There are TV’s on the ceiling (read tip #9)! And he helps keep your teeth bright and shiny!
3. Be a Good Example
If your child sees you stressing out, they are more likely to stress out about the dentist. Play it cool, and if you are feeling some anxiety, just HIDE it! Your kid usually takes their cues from you about how to act, so just relax and have a good time.
4. Good Dental Health at Home
No, I don’t work for a dentist. I just know, as a mom, if we are brushing and flossing at home, our dentist’s visits are MUCH better. Not only are my kids less likely to have any cavities or other oral problems, but they are used to having their teeth brushed and flossed. I always let my kids brush and floss by themselves, and then I’ll go ahead and do a quick brush and floss for them when they are done. That way, they get to practice and learn how to do it, I get to make sure it’s done well, and they get used to having to hold their mouths open and having someone else look in their mouth. And we ALWAYS use these little flossers. It just makes flossing a lot easier and more fun.
5. Bring a Buddy
My kids find comfort in being together, so I always schedule their appointments at the same time. It’s good for them to know that they aren’t alone in all of this crazy stuff. This only works if your children aren’t freaking out! If one of my kids is scared, or losing it at the dentist, it tends to make my other ones worry. So, if you’ve got a child going crazy, spare the other children from having to see it, and schedule their appointment for another day. (By the way, they are both laying here watching Despicable Me… and it was totally adorable!)
6. Let it be FUN
A little fun goes a long way when kids are unsure of something. While we are at the dentist, I make sure to point out all sorts of things that are completely normal, and make them seem much cooler than they are. “WOW! Look at this drinking fountain. I bet it’s the coldest drinking fountain ever!” or “That chair is turning into a bed! AMAZING! I wish I had one in my room. Think the dentist will let me take it home?” When Mom and Dad are having fun, the kids are having fun.
7. Give them Praise
This goes along with number 6, but I’ve found that when I talk things up, my kids seem to respond better. While we are at the dentist, I’m constantly telling my kids that they are doing a good job. We are always cheering each other on and giving “thumbs up”. And if they do a great job, or have no cavities, celebrate it! I’m all for rewarding good behavior!
8. Go to a Pediatric Dentist
I’ve tried taking my kids to the regular dentist, and let me tell you that our experience at the pediatric dentist is ALWAYS better. The pediatric dentist is prepared to deal with children. They have the right tools for little mouths, and they just KNOW how to do it better. I took my oldest to our regular dentist for a few years without them being able to get an x-ray, because his mouth was too small for their x-ray machine. As soon as we switched to the pediatric dentist, they got x-rays, and were able to catch some problems that the other dentist didn’t because he couldn’t take an x-ray.
9. TV’s on the Ceiling.
Just trust me on this one. If your dentist doesn’t have a TV on the ceiling and you can’t talk him into getting one, switch dentists. It is priceless with children.
10. Choose a Good Dentist
Above all else, choose a good dentist. Ours is not only incredibly qualified, he is also very friendly and fun! Having a good staff is also important. Our dental assistant let the kids dress him up (like a cop) before he worked on their teeth, so they got to know him, and were comfortable with him.Finding a good dentist is so important to the overall quality of your visit. Just because a dentist has an office in your neighborhood doesn’t mean you have to go to him. Ask your friends and family for recommendations on dentists they like or didn’t like, and you may find that traveling a little ways to find the right fit is worth it. And if your dentist’s personality or opinions don’t mesh well with your’s, you might want to consider finding one who is a better fit for your family. And that’s ok.
I REALLY love our dentist. He is so personable and fun. He isn’t over-scheduled, so he is willing to sit down and talk to me about all of our different options, and what’s best for my children. And, it helps that going to his office is better than going to Disneyland. Not only did my kids get the regular toothbrush and floss, but they also got balloons, a “cavity free” wristband, personalized name tags, and a super hero cape. The office also had a place for them to play while we waited (the kids were mad that our wait wasn’t very long because they wanted to play more). All of these fun things helped us relax and enjoy our tear-free dentist visit.
Now, since I told you that recommendations are so important, let me give you mine, in case you are in the area.
Burg Pediatric Dentistry … They have 8 offices across the Wasatch Front. We saw Dr. Knudsen at their Orchard Office in North Salt Lake. Their superhero theme was so fun for my kids, they had TV’s on their ceilings, and everyone there was so kind and helpful. We had a great visit there, and I give it TWO THUMBS UP!!! If you go to Burg Pediatric Dentistry, please tell them Natalie (TheCreativeMom) sent you.
I’m sure if you follow these 10 tips, you are more likely to have a tear-free dentist visit for kids and grownups alike!