So last week we adventured to the dentist for the first time, and it actually went really well! Missy Moo was a super star and I was so proud. Now, I’m not going to pretend I know everything about the best way to prepare your child for their first dentist visit, but I am going to tell you what we did to improve our chances of having a successful adventure!
If you are wondering it is recommended kids see a dentist for the first time at age two…you can read more about that here.
Also some kids are entitled to free dental…you can learn more about that here before you decide where to book your child’s appointment.
Before the appointment
1. Be honest.
Tell them they are going to the dentist. This might be a no brainer, but obviously informing your child about what is going to happen should be your first step. Try to go for a bubbly tone, you know, pretending you’re enthusiastic when you probably are feeling anxious as hell. A similar tone to “We’re going to do the grocery shopping…hooray”, when in fact you are actually dreading it.
2. Book somewhere that has children often.
When you ring and make a booking be sure to ask if the clinic cater for children. Is there a particular dentist at the clinic who takes the bulk of the younger patients for example? You want them.
So years ago I use to work in childcare. More recently I worked as a nurse teaching in a high school. I don’t have an overly formal educational background but I know a little about how learning happens. There are three main styles of learning, these are visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning. I decided to engage all three for the best chance of dental success!
3. Visual learning.
This is about watching as a way of learning, so in this instance me showing Missy Moo something. I chose YouTube to do this job for me because…well…it was easy and I like easy! We watched a few different videos but here are my favourites.
Peppa Pig visits The Dentist
Elmo’s World (not great quality) but I liked this one because it starts by showing a real child having a dentist appointment. Feel free to turn off once it gets back onto Elmo.
Visual learning could also include reading stories, or looking at photos of dentists. Here’s a random google image that I showed Missy Moo. We talked about the gloves, goggles, the little mirror and the fact she was counting the girl’s teeth.
4. Auditory learning.
This means learning through listening. For Missy Moo this meant explaining to her what was going to happen. Things like, “We’re going to see a dentist. They will put you in a fun chair that goes up and down”. We talked this though lots and lots of times in the two days prior to the appointment.
5. Kinesthetic learning.
This means learning by doing, aka role play. Missy Moo and I took it in turns to be “the dentist”. We used a little mirror to look at our teeth, practiced saying “ahhh” together, opening our mouths really wide like hippos, counting and brushing each others teeth…she loved it. If you wanted to take this further add in some dress ups…a basic white shirt would do.
Ok…that’s it for learning…Well done for getting through it. High five for feeling clever today!
6. Pack a bag of emergency bribes.
I didn’t need them but I had a stash of emergency bribes in my handbag. A few small but loved toys, and a favourite book. Take whatever might help.
7. Have your child choose a favourite toy to bring along to the appointment…ideally one with a mouth.
Our dentist was very kind to “Baby”, checking her teeth and giving her the all clear.
8. Be confident, have faith.
You’ve got this!!
At the appointment
9. Turn up a bit early.
Get to your appointment in a non rushed, relaxed manner. If required, get your child to “help” you fill in the paperwork, then grab a book and read together while waiting to see the dentist.
10. Stay positive.
I also used to work in paediatric nursing (I’ve had a lot of jobs, ok?) and it was always very frustrating if a parent described what their child wouldn’t do, before the child even had the chance to consider the request. For example phrases like “He probably won’t open his mouth”, or “She doesn’t like brushing her teeth” won’t be helpful at your appointment. Talk proudly of your child and encouragingly.
Here’s a few phrases that might help keep everyone relaxed:
“Hello Mr/Mrs Dentist, we are so happy to meet you”
“Missy Moo loves to brush her teeth, she is so clever”
“I’m so proud of your listening skills today”
“You are doing a great job”
After the appointment
You have two choices here as far as I can see, celebrate or just move on. I decided that I didn’t want this to be a celebrated activity…why? Because going to the dentist is part of life. I don’t get Missy Moo a new toy every time she goes to the doctors, or when she gets a haircut so didn’t get her anything special for this adventure. Going to the dentist is part of life, sorry kiddo, no presents for you.
If however you parent differently to me, that’s cool. Here’s a certificate you might like to print to have ready.
Good luck with your first appointment at the dentist! Hope these tips are helpful and you have a successful, stress free first visit. Let me know how you go in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.
Never want to miss an adventure?