Monday, January 5, 2015

5 Tips For Helping Your Child Accept Going To The Dentist

I've seen plenty of articles about getting your child to “love” the dentist. I hate using that word in that context. It's not like a kid is going to “love” getting a dental checkup the way they would “love” to go to Disneyworld.

It's always been my goal for my kids to “accept” going to the dentist as part of healthy living.

This hasn't been easy. I've had SO much work done on my teeth that I am petrified of all things dental. And my daughter, at 9 years old, has had 5 (count'em 5) root canals. Apparently, despite our best efforts, she just has very bad teeth. Her first memories of the dentist included being “papoosed” or, basically, encased in a straightjacket so that she wouldn't move around during the procedures. She cried, I sobbed (when she wasn't looking)  – it was a mess! 

Yet, now, amazingly enough, she doesn't mind going to the dentist. 

Why the flip-flop? While part of it is that she's maturing and understanding more, I did take some steps to help her.  Here's what I did:

This is my favorite book about teeth and going to the dentist!

  1. Leaving my emotional luggage at the door – As hard as it has been, I have had to table my fears of the dentist anytime we head to her office. I have to constantly remind myself that going is healthy and prevents further problems. A positive attitude on my part translates to a positive attitude for my child. If I'm getting nervous, I just take a moment and step out of the room. 

  2. I stay with her in the examination room – Some professionals don't like this, but after I stood my ground a few times, the staff gave in, as long as I wasn't intrusive. Every once in a while they'll give her an instruction she doesn't understand (as in today when they asked if she was “nauseous” during an extraction – I explained to her that the word meant “sick,” “dizzy.”). 

    Another warm book about dental visits and their importance.

  3. Emphasizing the positives of going to the dentist – We've gone over why it's healthy, what teeth do, and why good dental hygiene is important. I encourage her to ask any questions when we're in the doctor's office. This means she's not afraid to discuss any discomfort she's having.

  4. We've read books about going to the dentist – Some of our favorites are: The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears Visit The Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain, and Just Going To The Dentist by Mercer Mayer. 

  5. Not Talking Too Much About It – Just like errands, a trip to the dentist is something we need to do. Afterwards, if she's been really good and it's been a somewhat difficult session, we'll stop at the Dollar Store to get her a small stuffed animal or toy. I don't use it as a bribe or promise it beforehand. It's a spontaneous reward.

    Both kids thought this was the funniest book about going to the dentist.

She's described to her friends that going to the dentist is “relaxing” because of the big, comfy chair, the fact that they let her choose the flavor of toothpaste they use, and the goodies the staff gives her after every visit. Even today, after having two cavities filled and a tooth pulled, she's happy (well, not so much now as the Novocaine is wearing off). 

Does she “love” going? No, but Lily knows that whatever happens at the dentist is for her own good. Dental health is important. And that's a perfectly acceptable attitude.

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