How to Make Visits to the Dentist Fun for Your Child
Few people look forward to visiting the dentist, no matter how good their dentist’s chair-side manner. Children can be especially nervous about dentist appointments; it’s harder for them to understand the long-term benefits of dental hygiene. The way they see it, they have to lie back and allow a stranger to poke and prod inside their mouths. And those fluoride trays? Most children shiver at their mention.
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to change your child’s perception of the dentist. You don’t have to tell them scary stories of their teeth falling out from too much sugar, or show them a dental textbook to get the point across. Kids want to have fun, and if you can make the dentist’s office fun they’ll be much more inclined to cooperate during their appointment.
Maintain a Good Dental Routine
You can probably relate to this: you’ve slacked on flossing since your last trip to the dentist, and your dentist is quick to point it out. Then ensues the prodding and poking with sharp dental tools and all the discomfort that comes with them. Now imagine your child in the same position.
It’s a dentist’s job to let you know how your oral health is going but this sometimes comes across as scolding. The best medicine, in this case, is prevention. Keeping up a consistent dental routine at home will ensure your child’s dentist has nothing but good things to say about their mouth. When they do their inspection and cleaning, your child’s mouth will be less sensitive to the instruments if they’ve been consistently brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash. Your child will also be far less likely to develop cavities, which will require much more invasive treatment.
Bringing your child’s favourite books, shows or toys will allow them to have some fun while in the dentist’s waiting room. Keeping the focus on fun, not fear, is like the spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine go down. They’ll be in good spirits all the way into the chair, and will tolerate a checkup much better.
Dentist’s offices often have a toy room or a book room where your child can enjoy a little calm away from the clinic. Some even have a TV and video games. Your child will subconsciously connect teeth cleaning with trying new games, books, and toys. Dentists know that many children regard teeth cleaning as a stressful experience and do what they can to mitigate it for you both.
Do Some Reading
If your children’s favourite book characters are brave enough to visit the dentist, it will be easier for them to imagine themselves in that position. The Berenstain Bears, Curious George, Little Critter, Peppa Pig, and Dora the Explorer have all seen the dentist during their adventures and made it a positive experience. Read these stories to your children so they have a book hero to rally behind. If your child is enamoured with these characters, they may even look forward to seeing the dentist after reading it in their favourite books.
Make some jokes! Pull some funny faces. Your child does this naturally anyway, so turn it into an opportunity to make light of their teeth cleaning.
Before and after your child’s appointment, ask them to bare their teeth at you or make the silliest face they can in the mirror. Do the same yourself. Calmly explain that the dentist is going to clean up their fangs so they can make an even scarier little monster face. The more you can keep your child calm, giggling, and upbeat, the easier it will be for them to get through their dentist visit.
The dentist’s office is understandably a place that children often feel nervous about visiting, but you can make it much easier for them. It’s all about getting on their level and empathizing while employing good old diversion tactics. If your dentist has toys, books, and games in their lobby then that will go a long way. Regardless, make it light-hearted and inject some learning into the whole event, and your children will not only cope with the dentist but have fun during their appointment.