Not many people love going to the dentist, but it’s an important part of our oral health so we do it. Even if we don’t like it, we find the courage to buckle in and let the hygienist and dentist do what needs to be done.
But how do you convince your children that a trip to the dentist is a fun adventure? Kids are pretty discerning people and will pick up on the discomfort adults feel about the dentist. That means it’s important to teach them that going to the dentist isn’t like visiting a scary dragon cave, but more like visiting the tooth fairy castle.
Here are five creative ways that you can get your kids excited about a trip to the dentist.
1. Be Cool
First up, let’s address the elephant in the room: If you’re scared of the dentist, you’re likely to teach your children to be, too. This, of course, is not the desirable situation. If you’re not cool with the dentist, enlist the help of your partner or a friend who doesn’t have dental fear.
Kids pick up on the subtlest tells, so getting comfortable with the dentist yourself is the number-one method to making a visit cool. Be conscious of the language you use when talking about the dentist or procedures.
2. Find a Great Pediatric Dentist
A great pediatric dentist will make or break your visit. That’s why finding a pediatric dentist in your city is a great first step. Pediatric dentists spend every day working with children on their oral health. By taking your kids to a skilled pediatric dentist, you’re enlisting a quality ally in getting them excited about oral health.
3. Read Books on Dentistry
Many picture books and adventure stories are available to help demystify what to expect when visiting the dentist. If you’re lucky, the book will even become a cherished bedtime story and become embedded in your child’s development.
Books help children learn the questions they want to ask, which in turn helps you answer those questions before you’ve even walked through the dentist’s door. (If your child does love the book, bring it along! Read it as the dentist goes through the procedures to create familiarity with the new situation.)
4. Playtime Practice
Find toys that have anatomically correct teeth or create teeth out of play-doh. Whichever ways you find to teach your kids about teeth, letting your children take on the role of dentist first during playtime can get them comfortable when it’s time for them to take their turns.
For example, consider creating some mock dentistry tools and letting your kids poke around in your mouth.
5. Bribe Them—with Dental Stuff
Now, this one falls into the “crafty parent” category. We know children love rewards (who doesn’t?) so why not leverage this to your advantage? Tell your kids that after a visit to the dentist they’ll get new, supercool toothbrushes! You can pick up the coolest ones you can find and slip them to the receptionist for the dentist to give after the check-up. Nothing will build goodwill towards your dentist more than he or she walking in to hand your kid a Minion toothbrush.
In the end, you know your kids best and what each will respond positively to. Use the best methods for your children and you’ll turn a screaming match in the parking lot into the question, “When do we get to go back to the dentist?”