“But mom, I don’t want to go!”
Getting your children to the dentist without a fuss can be a challenge. Whether they experience fear, anxiety, or just a good old-fashioned case of “I’m five, and I don’t want to,” we can help. In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, here are five tips to make dentistry for children more manageable and more fun for everyone.
Start Seeing A Dentist Early On
Early experiences at the dentist can shape our lifelong relationship to dental health. That’s why taking your young child to the dentist is so important.
Your child’s first appointment should occur between the time their first baby tooth comes in and their first birthday.
That might seem early, especially if your child’s baby teeth haven’t fully erupted yet. But even if your little one is still waiting on some teeth, the dentist can make some crucial assessments about jaw development, early tooth decay, or possible misalignment from thumb-sucking or pacifier use.
The top priority for the first appointment is ensuring that your child feels comfortable and safe in the dental chair. To help with that, you’ll probably sit in the chair with your child during their first examination. Creating a sense of security from the start means that your child is more likely to feel safe at future childhood appointments and into adulthood.
Prepare Your Child Before Each Visit
There are good surprises and bad surprises. Springing a dentist appointment on a young child without preparation is almost always a bad surprise. Preparing your child before a dental visit is vital and can also be fun!
Talk to your child about going to the dentist. Touch on what a dentist does, what will happen at the appointment, and why it’s essential to visit the dentist regularly. You don’t have to get too detailed or complicated—just give your child enough information to set expectations. It may be helpful to do a pretend playtest run at home.
Reading or watching videos about dental health with your child is fun and easy. There are plenty of resources available at your local library or online. You can find some of our other favorites over on our blog post Dental Care for Kids: Four Ways to Help Parents.
Before you bring your child to Bass Dentistry, you can show them a video of our office and photos of our staff. Some children find it reassuring to know where they will go and who they will see before their appointment.
Reward vs. Bribery
Rewarding your kiddo for maintaining good oral hygiene habits and being brave at the dentist is okay!
It’s good to remember that rewards are not the same as bribes. Bribery is used to stop bad behavior, while rewards reinforce positive behavior. Positive reinforcement goes a long way when it comes to children and dental health.
Consider offering rewards like extra screen time, a new book, a fancy new Disney character toothbrush, or some other rare treat when your child completes a successful no-fuss dentist appointment.
Bribery may seem like the best option when your child is hesitant about or resistant to visiting the dentist. But in the long run, bribery won’t work the way you want it to. The unwanted behavior will likely continue. On the other hand, rewards can provide long-term success and a positive attitude about dental health into adulthood.
Make Each Dental Visit Fun
Dr. Bass and the team at Bass Dentistry enjoy making visits fun for kids. As the child of a dentist and the mother of two daughters, Dr. Bass knows just how to make little patients feel at ease.
First, your child will get to see the prize box so they can look forward to a reward when their examination is done. Dr. Bass and her hygienist will explain everything they’re doing as they’re doing it. Clear communication builds trust!
Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal or action figure? Great! They can bring it to their appointment. Fun, familiar objects are good comfort tools. Dr. Bass may even check their teeth, too! If your kiddo needs some additional distraction, we can put a movie on the TV.
If your child loves dogs, our resident therapy dog may be just what they need. Fender is a sweet, gentle pup who loves working with patients of all ages, particularly children. His calming presence and playful attitude make him a fun addition to any appointment. Just ask for him when you book!
Office visits should be easy and fun, which is why it’s best to bring your young one in before they have a dental issue.
Be Patient With Your Children
Patience is a virtue. Being patient with your children isn’t always easy, especially when they’re having a meltdown. But if you can be patient with your kiddo while they work through their feelings about visiting the dentist, you can do anything.
Talk to your child about their emotions. Are they feeling scared, proud, anxious, or excited? What are they nervous about or looking forward to at their dental appointment? After the appointment, ask them what they learned, liked, and didn’t like. All of this information will help you, your child, and your dentist create a better experience at the next appointment.
The keys to making dentistry for children easier and more enjoyable are simple: Early introduction to the dentist, preparation, rewards, fun, and patience. Helping your child get comfortable with and excited about their dental care means a healthy smile for life!
If you want to know more about dentistry for your whole family, book an appointment today with Bass Dentistry.
If dental health is important to you and your family, take steps to know how to keep your gums healthy. Gum health is essential to maintaining healthy teeth and overall good dental hygiene. Brush and floss multiple times per day, avoid tobacco products, and use a therapeutic mouthwash.
If you want to know more about maintaining a healthy smile, book an appointment today with Bass Dentistry.