It is something we don’t often think about but maintaining good oral health is just as important as making sure your are physically active. All parts of your body need to be working at their best to have you looking and feeling great physically, mentally and socially from childhood until your senior years. This includes eating a well balanced diet (including whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean meats), getting exercise (and wearing a mouth guard while playing sports), and seeing your dentist regularly. While brushing your teeth for 2-3 minutes at least twice a day helps to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, a visit to the dentist is important to detect and treat any problems you may not know about and also to proactively prevent any further damage.
As a Mom I wanted to make sure that when Monkey visited the dentist we started the relationship off right. Here are 6 things that you can do to prepare your child for the first visit to the dentist:
Find a paediatric dentist – your first thought might be to just take your child to your dentist, but I would encourage you to see if there is a dentist office that specializes in children. Our paediatric dentist’s office is decorated for kids, has stuffed animals with teeth to demonstrate techniques on and the staff has lots of experience and patience with kids. Being able to bond with the hygienist over what superhero is the best really went a long way to make Monkey feel more comfortable at his first visit.
Tell your child they are going to the dentist – tell your child that they are going to the dentist so you don’t just spring it on them at the last minute. However if your child is likely to stress leading up to the visit, don’t tell them too far in advance. For Monkey we let him know the day before that “we might be going to the dentist soon”. This gives us enough time to answer his questions and reassure him, but not enough that we are hearing about it for weeks.
Gear up – we joke that dentists are “very messy” which is why when you visit the dentist you need to wear a bib and have eye glasses to protect your eyes from water and the bright light. You can even practice at home wearing the “gear” with a pair of sunglasses and a paper towel bib. Also let your child know that the dentist and hygienist will be wearing a mask and gloves to protect themselves too.
Tools of the trade – make sure the dentist explains what is going to happen at each step during the appointment and explains what the tools will do. While your child is used to seeing a normal toothbrush they may be unsure of the polisher and the noise that it makes.
Keep it simple – try not to pressure or get upset while at the dentist. It might take some time for your little one to open their mouth, but when they do, encourage and support them. If all you get the first time around is a peek inside then that is OK. Monkey has been to the dentist twice now, and while he is OK with the cleaning, x-rays are a no go so far. So we will just try again at our next visit.
Keep your eye on the prize – getting your child to their first appointment is a success in itself, however adding a little extra incentive for good behavior doesn’t hurt either. Many dentists have a treasure chest with a small prize for the kids at the end of the appointment. I also like to add my own incentive such as “I can’t wait to sit and read a book with you after we are done this appointment, it will only be a few more minutes.” to help keep Monkey calm and focused.
Using these tips our first (and second) trips to the dentist, I have the peace of mind knowing that we are on the right track to good oral health. If you haven’t taken your child to the dentist yet I encourage you to book an appointment now, and while you are at it book one for yourself too! It is easy as moms to get so focused on what the kids need that we forget to take care of ourselves too. If you don’t have a dentist for your family or want to see if there is a peadiatric dentist in your area visit Your Oral Health to find one today.
Disclosure: Although this post has been generously sponsored by the Ontario Dental Association, the opinions and language are my own, and in no way do they reflect the Ontario Dental Association.