My son Carson has always been the persnickety sort, who cries easily in new situations, making trips to the pediatrician and the dentist a nightmare when he was younger. His first trip to the dentist was not exactly a great one, he refused to even open his mouth, with promises of highly coveted toddler rewards completely ignored. I quickly realized that he was just afraid of the unknown and had I prepared him a little more for what to expect at the dentist’s office, he probably would have been a lot more cooperative.
Now that he’s six-years-old, I find that he still needs a little encouragement to make visits to the dentist less scary. He’s luckily never had any cavities, so his dentist visits, after the first one anyway, have been mostly positive experiences. Here are a few things I wish we would have done differently and the things that we now do that help ease Carson’s anxiety.
1. Visit the dentist early. No, not necessarily early in the morning! Many dentists recommend children begin visiting them around their first birthdays. Introducing this new situation to a young child helps establish these dental visits as just a normal part of their routine.
2. Establish healthy brushing (and eventually rinsing) routines early. Begin brushing kids teeth as soon as they appear to help get them used to toothbrushes and toothpaste. As they get old enough, have the kids begin rinsing as part of their daily routine. Healthy habits will help keep cavities away and will help make visiting the dentist a positive experience.
3. Choose a dentist who is kid-friendly. Many children’s dentistry practices are decorated in fun colors, have lots of toys in the waiting room, and offer fun rewards for good behavior and no cavities. The staff will even be experienced in working with children who are feeling anxious.
4. Prepare your child ahead of time for what to expect at the dentist’s office. There will be lots of new sites and sounds that they’ll experience at the dentist’s office for the first time. Use kid-friendly terms like sugar bugs instead of plaque to explain why the dentist want to clean their teeth. If possible, have the dentist or hygienist explain some of the tools they use to clean sugar bugs off their teeth ahead of time. Some dental practices will even offer tours for their newest patients to visit and see what the dentist’s office is all about.
5. Offer rewards for good behavior at the dentist. The promise of a special toy or a trip to the park might be just the thing to help your child focus on what will happen after the dentist visit–especially for the kids who are nervous to visit the dentist.
I received products from Johnson & Johnson as part of my participation in the LISTERINE® Kids Cavity-Free School Year Program. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. Click here to see more of the discussion.
(photo source: Flickr)