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5 Tips for Surviving the Dentist

551340_dentist Recently, my daughter had her very first teeth cleaning.  She has visited with the dentist a couple times, but they had not actually cleaned her teeth before this past week.  She did a-maz-ing!  She laid on the exam chair like such a big girl and laughed when the dentist counted all twenty of her teeth.  She also allowed the hygienist to scrape the plaque off her teeth, clean them, and apply varnish.  I was incredibly proud of her.  She excitedly picked out a slinky from the prize box at the end of our visit and we drove on home to tell Daddy what a big girl she was.  There are a few things that contributed to our very successful trip to the dentist.

Choose the right dentist and make practice visits

  • Ask fellow moms for dentist recommendations.  Call and ask if you can visit the dentist office (without having an exam).  See what kind of feel you get when you visit their office and talk with their staff.  If you do not get the warm fuzzies, find another dentist.  There is absolutely no reason why you should not feel happy and comfortable when you walk into a pediatric dentist office.  It’s also a good idea to stop by the office to say “hi” a couple times before the actual exam so your child is familiar with the staff and knows where the cool toys are stored. Our dentist actually plays his guitar for kids before their exam! 

Lay down to brush teeth

  • Our dentist taught us early on to brush our children’s teeth while they laid on the ground.  I thought he was nuts until I heard his rationale.  It’s actually quite brilliant.  One of the scariest parts of dental visits for small children is laying down while someone bends over you with a toothbrush.  You can take away this awkwardness by always laying them down to brush their teeth at home.  Also, you get a MUCH better look at their teeth and do a better job at brushing in this position. 

Find a sitter for siblings

  • I have found a wonderful college age girl who babysits for me during the day so I can take my children to their many appointments and leave the others at home.  I think the one-on-one time I had with my daughter at her dentist appointment really helped to keep her calm and comfortable.  I was not distracted by her brother pulling down the dental tray or pushing the buttons on the dental chair.  I was calmer, so she was calmer. 

Bring Lovey

  • Need I say more?  Lovey does not leave my daughter’s bedroom because I am terrified of losing her.  However, Lovey made an extra special trip to have her teeth cleaned with my daughter. 

Talk positively about the dentist trip

  • Before our appointment, I told my daughter that she was a big girl, so she was going to meet a very special person who was going to brush her teeth.  I told her that the dental hygienist was going to tickle her teeth with a special toothbrush and make sure they were extra white and extra clean.  I told her that it was going to be a special time with just Mommy and her and she would receive a special treat and a new toothbrush.  I reminded her of her Barney episode about visiting the dentist and we sang some of those songs.  I called a girlfriend and told her that my big girl was going to have a fun trip to the dentist that day and built up the appointment to my friend while my daughter was in earshot.  By the time we arrived to our appointment, she was excited!

Have you taken your child for his or her first dental visit?  How did they do?  What helped make your trip successful?  What contributed to a not-so-great dental visit?

4 Responses to 5 Tips for Surviving the Dentist

  • Comment by Sharon M
    June 29, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

    This kind of goes with #1, but don’t assume a “pediatric” dentist is the best for your child. Now, the pediatric dentist I worked for in SA was super cool, but there were plenty of families that came into our office from other pediatric dentists in the city, and they were not impressed by their former dentist’s interaction with children, unfriendliness of the staff, etc. There are plenty of general dentists that have a great rapport with children.

    Talking positively about the dentist is a GREAT suggestion. We had many parents who came in to the office, and it was plain that they were so nervous. It showed in their child’s attitude. On the other hand, parents who were calm and had spoken to their children before the visit about all the fun stuff they got to do were much more likely to have a calm and relaxed child sitting in the chair!

  • Gravatar
    Comment by Barb
    July 1, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

    Ironic timing as I just took Morgan (21 months) for her first dentist appt yesterday (before you posted this :) . It went … well, okay. We had read a book with pictures about going to the dentist in preparation, and I had tried talking it up. We also went to a pediatric dentist which turned out to be great b/c everything was so kid-friendly, including the dentist and her staff. Morgan wasn’t a huge fan of being laid back to have her mouth looked into and at that point flipped out so I think your suggestion to practice this ahead of time is FANTASTIC.

  • Gravatar July 4, 2009 @ 9:38 am

    even though it is a long process letting the child actually get used to the dentist it a worth the time spent if everything goes well and in the end the kid is enthusiastic and far from scared. great tips, thank you.

  • Gravatar September 24, 2009 @ 1:07 am

    [...] TMC article: Last June, McKenna wrote about surviving your child’s first dental visit. [...]

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