Make dental visits enjoyable for your child.

Many parents and children have different connotations of the word “dentist.” For some parents, the word “dentist” can mean more than just cleanings. It means fillings, cavities, and sometimes apainful dental procedure. However, for children, it can mean watching Spongebob with sunglasses on, cool brushes that taste like bubblegum, and prizes. That’s why it’s important that parents don’t let their own fears or biases about dental experiences spill over to their children. Many children often have pleasant experiences at the dentist.

When it comes to your child’s first dental procedure, it’s important to keep a calm and clear head and not burden them with your own past experiences. Here are a few tips to consider to make your child’s first dental experience a positive one.

1. Read books.

Reading books with your child about what they can expect at the dentist is a great way of getting them excited about the experience. It gives them a chance to understand what it’s like, ask questions, and learn more about what they can expect.

Not only that, but reading is a great way to bond with your child. It allows them to learn what words mean, how to use pictures to help understand a story, and learn to become active readers themselves.

Here are a few great books to read at their first visit or before a dental procedure:

  • Just Going to the Dentist, by Mercer Mayer
  • Doctor De Soto, by William Steig
  • The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, by Stan & Jan Berenstain
  • I Can’t Wait to Go to the Dentist, by Jeanie U. Allen

Reading books is a great way to plan for any dentist visit, as it will help children recall things they liked, and you can talk about dental visits in a positive way to promote good oral care. On top of that, reading books can help alleviate dental anxiety when it comes to anesthesia and cavity fillings.

2. Get crafty.

Another great way to normalize an upcoming dental procedure is to create some arts and crafts around the procedure and have your child play the role of the dentist. Creating fun activities around an upcoming procedure helps your child experience it in a fun and active way.

For instance, you could pull out some Play-Doh and work together to create a mouth of teeth that need fillings. You and your child can take turns clearing out the cavity, then filling in the tooth.

Here are some other ideas:

  • Paint a clean tooth and write all the ways you keep your teeth clean.
  • Paint an unhealthy tooth and write all the ways you can get cavities, plaque, or tartar.
  • Use marshmallows to make a mouth of teeth then have some come out as baby teeth.
  • Using toothpaste and a brush, paint a tooth and make sure to cover the entire surface.

Children are natural explorers and learn through play, so expect a lot of questions throughout the process. If you’ve read books already, these could be clarifying questions about the procedure. Keep it light and about the experience. The important part here is to establish positive feelings associated with the procedure and provide context to what procedure will be done.

3. Create a pre- and post-dentist ritual.

If you’re wondering how to make your child feel comfortable at the dentist, consider building positive experiences around dental procedures. For example, you could choose to go out to your favorite breakfast place beforehand and talk about anything under the sun. The important part here is to make it fun and casual.

Additionally, after the visit, you could go to the toy store, Target, Five Below, or some other store with cheap toys your child will get excited about. If toys aren’t in your budget, you could take your child to a park or even out for frozen yogurt or ice cream since soft, cold foods are often allowed after a dental filling.

4. Tour the dentist’s website.

Another great way to prepare for your child’s dental procedure is to tour the dentist’s website. Getting a chance to see the dentist’s friendly face and his or her team can help your child feel comfortable for the visit. Depending on your dentist’s website, they may have information on procedures or the tools used in their office. If you feel this is needed, you could talk to your child about how these are used in kid-friendly language after touring the website.

Find ways to make it fun by reading a blog post about how to keep your teeth clean, then practice it together. Remember, kids learn by doing, so it’s important to act out what you read to make it stick.

5. Talk about the benefits of having the procedure.

Depending on the procedure your child is going to have, it’s important to talk about the procedure’s benefits. You can say things like:

  • Imagine how pretty your tooth will look after the dentist fills your cavity.
  • Just think about how much easier it will be to eat food after the dentist removes your tooth.
  • It’s going to be so cool to see how white your tooth looks when it’s capped.

Talking candidly about the benefits of the procedure will help your child focus on the positive aspects of treatment rather than think about things like conscious sedation or needles.

Prepare your child for their first dental procedure.

Dental procedures don’t have to be a scary thing for your child. On the contrary, they can be very positive experiences. Although your connotation of the word “dentist” may be different than your child’s, that doesn’t mean you cannot make it a positive experience for them.

Looking for a pediatric dentist in Salem, Oregon? Consider Spinnaker Pediatric Dentistry. Our dentists specialize in working with children for painless and positive dental care. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, or call us at (503) 436-6539. Together, we can ensure your child loves their dental care experiences.