Going to the dentist should and can be enjoyable. Yes, you read that right: dental visits do not have to be scary or anxiety filled times! There are a few tips and tricks parents can use with their children to help achieve a positive visit to the dentist. The ultimate goal is to make kids understand the importance of caring for their teeth and to get them and keep them on the path to lifelong, excellent oral health. Following are a few things parents can try at home:
Watching an online video- A quick search of the internet especially via You Tube will show that there are many parents who have posted their children’s trips to the dentist. You and your child can watch these together and then you can answer any questions your child may have. Letting your child know that everyone goes to the dentist and that it is part of being a “big kid” sometimes helps. Most kids are very used to watch videos on You Tube so showing them dentist clips will help alleviate any anxiety of the unknown.
Reading or watching a cartoon story- There are many cartoon characters who have gone to the dentist as a storyline in their TV shows or in a book. There is the classic Berenstein Bears episode where brother and sister bear go to the dentist for a loose tooth. Dora the Explorer also has a dentist story as do SpongeBob and Garfield. A quick online search will yield many results.
There are also many options as far as dental themed books. One of the best out there is Sugar Bug Doug, written by an actual dentist, Dr. Ben Magleby, who is a colleague of mine from dental school. This relatable tale teaches kids about cavities with easy to understand language and illustrations. It is a great book that is easy to read and understand.
Practice makes perfect- Role playing at home will get your child used to the idea of opening their mouths while laying down. Using a flashlight to simulate the dental overhead light and buying pretend dental tools from online retailers are a great way to get your kids used to the idea of the dentist using the overhead light and tools. Ask your child to open their mouth wide while you search for sugar bugs or count their teeth. This will make the actual process seem familiar and less scary when they actually do it at the dentist.
Parents can also take their kids to their own dental visit. Children often imitate grownups and if they see mom or dad or a grandparent at the dentist, it will definitely seem more natural when they get to go. Whichever method or combination of methods you choose, it is important to help prepare your child for their first visit to the dentist. Your child’s dentist will thank you, trust me!
-Dr. Jamie Sahouria