How to Encourage Your Child to Want to Go the Dentist

Jun 5, 2014

Dash Meet Dashiell, our four-year-old son.

He's a great kid -- sweet and loving and stubborn as can be. He's the kind of kid who absolutely won't do anything thing until he is ready.

Take going to the dentist. You could say Dash has it easy since his daddy, Dr. Adam Diesburg,  is the dentist. Having daddy as the dentist means you have already "been" to the dentist's many, many times. You've probably had Dad's hands in your mouth, checking things out, on a regular basis since you were just a tiny tyke.

But even as a dental family we faced a bit of trepidation before taking our first child to get a cleaning for the first time. Dash is a sensitive kid and this is a new experience after all. We didn't know if he would lay back like he was on a beach in Hawaii and owned the place, or completely freak out. Just what did we do to prepare Dashiell for visiting the dentist? What works to get kids excited about this thing they should be doing twice a year? What worked for us?

How to Get Your Kid Excited About the Dentist

1. Make healthy teeth a priority at home first, from the get-go From the time you start brushing your child's teeth, from the first tooth that erupts, you should talk to your child about how you are brushing the sugar bugs off their teeth. Brush twice a day, morning and night. No exceptions. With most kids, you'll eventually be at the point where they don't feel good going to bed until they have brushed their teeth.

2. Read books about going to the dentist and about teeth Your library in McMinnville should have a great selection of books about teeth, and we've put together this blog post, Best Kids' Book on Teeth,  we've put up about where to start.

3. Make everything associated with teeth fun Even if you hate Elmo, even if the idea of a Spider-Man toothbrush leaves a bad taste in your mouth, let your child pick out his/her toothbrush. Have your child do some dental-themed coloring pages in the days before the visit.

4. Make it something they "Get To Do." Our son didn't show the mildest interest in going to the dentist to get his teeth cleaned until our Finnish exchange student was scheduled for a cleaning and so was mom. Anything that can seem like a big kid privilege holds special interest for kids at the right age for their first cleanings.

5. Describe to the child what happens at a cleaning A simple walk-through of the process helps calm many fears for wee ones.

6. Give rewards Instead of saying: If you're good, you'll get to go to the park afterwards, let them know what will happen more neutrally. "First we're going to get your teeth cleaned, then we're going to your favorite park!"

7. Pick a great dentist your kid can connect with Most of the McMinnville dentist will happily do a meet-and-greet with your family in order to test if it is the right fit or ask some initial questions. These meetings should be free of charge. You can also use this time to check out the office to see how kid-friendly it is.

8. Keep your own dental fears in check It is not uncommon that adults have had that one dental experience that makes going to the dentist difficult. If you have a real dental phobia, talk to someone about it or consider having a spouse, relative or friend take your child for the cleaning.

So how did our very sensitive little boy do on his first visit? He did GREAT. In fact, he was so chill we were flabbergasted. In Dash's case, we think the advantage of having an older child doing it first was the deciding factor. But we've been doing all of the thing above in the run-up to this first visit, so who knows. As every parent knows, it helps to have every tool available when you're preparing to establish routines.

Wishing you all the best as you prepare your kids for their dental visits!

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