We recently made our first trip to the dentist. After putting off this horrific event, because, naturally, I assume the worst, I came to the realization that my daughter is now 5 and her teeth might be falling out soon. It may or may not be because I constantly forget to make her brush her teeth. I know, bad mommy, bad mommy. After texting everyone I knew for a recommendation and sitting on the list for weeks, I finally bit the bullet and made an appointment. Then I realized that was the easy part. Next came the conversation about who the dentist is, why we had to go and that teeth will fall out whether you brush them or not because they are baby teeth and we have two sets of teeth. Yes, I’d like to see you explain that to your 3 and a half year old.
Luckily, preschool did some of the heavy lifting for me and when I said dentist, I was greeted with shouts of joy, followed by fighting over who gets to brush the alligators teeth first. My only thought was that I hope there is a damn alligator or I was going to be screwed from the moment my little princesses toosh hit the chair. As luck would have it there was no alligator, but there were crayons, pictures of the ocean on the wall (original, I know) and Ratatouille on the tv. So after asking one million times where the alligator was, much to the dr’s confusion, we got down to work.
Since I love you all so much, I thought I would share some things I learned along the way so that when you take your kids to the dentist we can all try and avoid a possible hellish experience together.
Tell your kids you’re taking them to the dentist and what the dentist does. My hope for you is that you’ll get lucky like me and some local dentist will have visited your child’s preschool and told them how exciting it is to sit in a chair while they poke you with a sharp tool and stick oversized mini x-ray sheets into your mouth till you gag and then tell you to hold it. I mean, seriously, what the …..?! Once we got passed the alligator with the big teeth that you get to brush, I was able to tell them how Mommy and Daddy also visit the dentist so we can keep our teeth healthy.
Lie to them and tell them they have nothing to fear and cross your fingers that making them brush their teeth once a week won’t turn into millions of tiny cavities.
Prepping your kids ahead of time helps them to feel confident about talking to you about their concerns and ask you any questions that could make their first experience go a little more smoothly.
Arrive early! Not only so you can fill out the mounds of paperwork they give you, but so that your kids can become acquainted with the office. Introduce them to the office managers and let those said office managers give your kids
awful fake tattoos with said dental offices name on it that you know will inevitable end up on their body, therefore making them a walking advertisement.
Today we arrived 10 minutes early and it gave the kids time to color and become comfortable with the office before their appointment. It really helped to ease them into being in a new environment. Since my son sometimes gets intimidated by new faces and places, I’ve found success in arriving early so he’s not stressed out going into the appointment.
Develop coping mechanisms for your kids. For me, it was letting them bring their favorite blanket and stuffed animal with them to the visit. We also came up with the 10 second rule when it came time for x-rays. After several failed attempts to explain to my daughter that the x-ray camera is not the same as a regular camera and that you don’t look at it and smile, I decided it was time to step in. Between her camera confusion and gagging on the x-ray thingy’s I knew we had to come up with something fast or I was going to be there all day. I could even see in my daughters face that she was becoming tired of the process.
When the 10 second rule was born, the process began moving quicker. I explained that I would count to 10 and when I got to ten the x-ray would be done and she could open her mouth to release the x-ray sheet. Beginning at 1, by the time we got to 3 the x-ray sheet was in, she was biting down, by 6 the picture was being taken and by 10 she was done… with the first sheet. Thankfully we only had to do this 3 times. 30 seconds sure beats the 10 previous minutes we spent on the process.
Stand where they can see you. My kids are squirmy and standing where they could see me and sharing words of encouragement with them during the teeth cleaning and exam really helped the visit go much smoother. There were no tears, screams, fights or refusals to cooperate. I really believe that knowing I was there was comforting and it allowed me to read their facial expressions so I could communicate with the dentist during the visit. Call me a helicopter mom, but seriously they have to go every 6 months now so I need to make sure that I don’t have to bribe them to get them back through the door. I know y’all are nodding your head in agreement right now because, like me, you probably hate the dentist and secretly come up with a list of ways you’ll treat yourself after your visit.
Get them a treat! Yes, I know you just had their teeth cleaned and prodded, but if you managed to make it through without a fight, they deserve to be spoiled a little. Since we were on the same side of town as our favorite doughnut shop, that’s exactly where they asked me if we could go. How could I say no to those faces? I should let you know that this wasn’t used as a bribe before or during the visit, but a surprise after they did such a great job during the visit.
I’d love to hear about your experiences?
What advice do you have to help first time visits to the dentist?
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