I have heard so many horror stories about children and the dentist and many adults I know fear dental check ups so much that they put off visiting the dentist.
Including my own dear husband. Once, he broke a tooth – you would think this would mean a trip to the dentist straight away, right?
But not my husband – he put it off until he was in unbearable pain and something had to be done. Resulting in him having to have the tooth pulled out – not fun!
Earlier dental visits would have prevented this, and although I understand his fear, I did not want my children to develop the same fears of the dentist.
I know this is not uncommon having worked in a dental surgery for a short time when I was younger. I witnessed children crying, screaming, wriggling and traumatised.
I was determined to do my best to make my children’s dental visits as positive and pleasant as possible and I managed to make this happen.
Both my children’s first visits to the dentist were pleasant; they sat quietly in the chair and even enjoyed the novelty of the experience!
So what did I do?
I prepared them.
We read library books about visiting the dentist, eg, “Visiting the Dentist” by Charlotte Guillain
It has pictures of the equipment, kid friendly explanations of why we need to visit the dentist and what happens at the dentist, from arrival to the waiting room to the equipment used and what the dentist will do.
One of the main reasons children might fear the dentist is the unknown – if they have an idea of what to expect it makes it easier for them.
We only spoke about the dentist in positive tones; hubby was banned from talking about his fears in front of the kids.
We also played The Dentist Game.
When my daughter was three – she was the patient and I was the dentist. I dug through my cupboards and found a dental mask and some white dental bibs that I had from my nail tech days. (You could make these yourself or ask your dentist for a couple – many would be happy to encourage this).
I greeted my child as the dentist would then took her to our recliner chair (a couch would do just as well).
I popped my mask on and put the bib on her chest.
I popped sunglasses on her.
I got a lamp and shone it over her and asked her to open her mouth. I checked her teeth, counted them and told her how well she did, gave her a sticker and told her to come back and visit me in 6 months.
It was a fun activity for both of us, and it wasn’t overly time consuming preparation wise.
We played it a couple more times in the weeks leading up to her first dentist visit.
She was three, and a very strong willed, tantrum throwing, wants her own way spirited three year old!
Anything could happen!
What did happen, was she expressed no concerns about going to the dentist, she sat in the chair, cooperated with the dentist and it was overall a very relaxed experience. Yay!
The dentist actually expressed her own amazement at how good she was – a win for all of us!
She is now nine and her most recent visit she was a little nervous as she understands more and has fear of blood and needles, but she coped really well having had four seals on her teeth and having some ‘stuff that tastes like shampoo” put in her mouth.
She came out and said, “That wasn’t so bad”.
Some other tooth tips I have picked up along the way:
Using the Mcleans nurdle app for tooth brushing: Your little one can brush along for 2 minutes to a catchy tooth brushing song and when they finish they earn points to dress up their own nurdle character. It’s really cute and fun, but if the song gets stuck in your head don’t blame me!
Changing toothbrushes regularly – not just for the sake of toothbrush quality but the novelty of using a new toothbrush.
Introduce new tricks like mouthwash or dental floss – they may or may not like it but having it there from a young age can help develop good habits early.
Be a positive role model. Visit the dentist regularly yourself and brush your teeth with them.
Don’t use threats that create dentist fear. Saying things like, “If you don’t brush your teeth they will rot and you will have to go to the dentist” only make them fear the dentist!
Do you have any other tips for helping young children with their dental health? I would love to hear about them in the comments.