- Siblings with Positive Attitudes Go First
When you have more than one kid, schedule their appointments back to back. It’s easier for you this way and can be beneficial for your younger or more anxious kids. Have the sibling with positive experience and attitude go first (usually this will be the oldest). Your other kids will see their sibling come out of the dental chair with a smile, and this can be encouraging. Often younger siblings want to copy what their older siblings do, hopping into the dentist chair can be just another cool thing that big sister or big brother does.
- Schedule Around Naptime
For your kids that take naps, scheduling around the nap is key. Never schedule a dental visit during nap time and consider your child’s emotional state close before and after naptime. Try to avoid scheduling during a time they are prone to grumpiness. Kids that come in happy are more likely to be open to doing something new.
- Schedule After a Meal or a Snack
As with sleep, we don’t want a dental appointment to interfere with mealtime or snack time. Hungry kids can be grumpy kids, and let’s face it. Being hungry isn’t fun for anyone. Make sure they’ve eaten before their dental appointment so we can avoid hungry tummy rumbles or impatience to go eat. While it’s best that they have eaten recently before a dental appointment, please don’t offer snacks on the car ride to the office or in the waiting room just before.
- Role Play at Home
Before their first dental visit, it’s a good idea to role play with your kids at home. Playing pretend is part of every child’s normal day and can a fun and engaging opportunity for learning and preparation. Take turns being the dentist and being the patient. For the first time, maybe demonstrate on a doll or stuffed animal. Be sure you give your kids the opportunity to be the dentist and you the patient. It can be fun for them to have the position of the “doer” and you can demonstrate how to be cooperative.
- Handle Your Own Anxiety
Be self-aware. Do you have your own anxiety about trips to the dentist? If you do, take some time before hand to prepare yourself to be calm and encouraging. Our children learn so much from us and can pick up on attitudes and behaviors that we might not be aware of displaying. Do your research about pediatric dentists so that you can feel confident about where you take your kids for their dental needs. If you need to, go in and check the place out on your own, so that it doesn’t feel new to you the first time you go with your kid.
- Watch Your Vocabulary
In accordance with being self-aware about any dental anxiety you may have, also beware your language about the dentist. When you talk about needing to go to the dentist for yourself, do you complain about it as something that you “have to do”? Be mindful to speak about it in a positive manner. Avoid talking about shots, or pain. Give them the opportunity to have a positive experience by not tainting their expectations. Also, please never use going to the dentist as punishment or threaten with it. Dental checkups for kids should be a routine like going to the doctor for a yearly checkup even when they aren’t sick.
- Don’t Offer Rewards for Dental Visits
Avoid bribing or offering rewards for going to the dentist. Bribing or offering rewards implies that a trip to the dentist office won’t be fun so you have to offer something to balance it out. It sets the tone that a dentist appointment is something to be endured which casts it in a negative light.
- Read a Book About the Dentist
Reading a book with your kid about a visit to the dentist is a great way to help set their expectations and help them visualize what to expect. Kids learn a lot from picture books and reading. Here’s a list of some kid’s books that can help you and your family out.
- Dora Goes to the Dentist by Random House and Robert Roper: Your kids don’t have to love Dora the Explorer to love this book. It focuses on having your child look for certain objects in the picture and takes them through the process of what to expect.
- Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayor: In this book, the main character has a cavity and has to get a filling.
- ABC Dentist by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Liz Murphy: This book goes through the entire alphabet with words applying to dentistry.
- Visiting the Dentist by Charlotte Guillain: This book is a beginning reader book with a glossary and chapters. With photos, instead of illustrations it caters to an older child.
- Start Young
Familiarity goes a long way for kids, new experiences at new places are always harder than the known. Start taking your kids for dental checkups at a young age. We recommend your child’s first visit be when that first little tooth erupts. Having them come in for regular checkups will make visiting the dentist easier as they get older.
- Do the Paperwork Beforehand
Ask for the patient forms ahead of time and fill them out at home, so that when you get to the office, wait time isn’t any longer than necessary, and you can have your hands free to engage with your child.
Remember that we are on your side, we want what is best for your child and we want for them to have a positive dental experience. Feel free to talk with us ahead of time about any concerns or anxieties you or your child may have. Together we can ensure that dentist visits occur with happy healthy smiles along the way.