A trip to the dentist makes me very nervous. My childhood dentist visits weren’t that way. My uncle was my dentist. He was gentle and great at his job, plus he was family . . . and I was never nervous to be there. In fact, as I got older I often looked at a dentist visit as a time to lay back and relax. But, sadly, my uncle passed away many years ago and I’ve had a few bad dentist experiences since then. So now, like a lot of people, going to the dentist makes me very nervous.
I didn’t want my kids to have anxiety over trips to the dentist, so instead of just making that first appointment and showing up, I was very thoughtful in how I approached it. Here are the three things I do:
1 – Choose a Pediatric Dentist or one that is recommended by others with kids. We had a great pediatric dentist in Colorado, but when we moved, our insurance didn’t work with any local pediatric dentists. I asked around and a friend with little kids suggested a great office. They are super kid friendly and my kids love this office just as much as their old dentist.
2 – Always show a positive and excited attitude when talking with your kids about the dentist. They take their cues from us! I’m always very excited when I let my kids know they have a dentist appointment coming up and they always look forward to it.
3 – Have a “dress rehearsal”! Okay, I know that sounds weird. I don’t know where I came up with the idea, but I used it before taking my oldest to the dentist and with every one of the kids since then and they’ve all done great. The thing is, if they know what to expect, then when the dentist is putting instruments in their mouths while they’re laying on a funny chair, it won’t seem nearly as scary. I talk them through as much as possibl, having them do the actions, and even use props and sound effects, saying things like:
“The dentist might take some pictures of your teeth with a funny looking camera.” — just use your phone to take close up pictures
“There will be a big chair to sit on and it lays all the way back like a bed!” — have them lay down on the floor, using arms to pull them up to sitting and laying back down
“You’ll need to open your mouth really big; show me how big you can open yours!”
“The dentist will probably count your teeth with a little metal tool that will tap your teeth.” — use a spoon handle to gently tap and count their teeth
“There will be a silly toothbrush that they’ll use to brush your teeth, like this.” — use a toothbrush but make a motorized sound effect
“There might even be a big light that shines in your mouth and a little mirror to help the dentist see all of your teeth.” — use a flashlight and a compact mirror
“There will be a little water squirter that sprays right in your mouth.” — a little squirt gun, eye dropper, or spray bottle with a tiny bit of water
I really think this has been huge for helping my kids love going to the dentist. Knowing what to expect, makes it not so scary. And every time we’ve taken our kids to the dentist, especially for their first visit, we always get comments on how great they do. You can even repeat this the first couple of visits since little kids might forget what to expect. Here’s some recent pics from Breanna’s first dentist visit and practice session at home. She did great!