Monday, April 21, 2014

Tips for Taking Your Kid to the Dentist

I call him Principal Daddy on our blog because I consider him the honorary principal of our home school. But Principal Daddy is actually a dental assistant extraordinaire. The kind that does more than just suction spit. He's been working in the field since I was pregnant with Builder Boy, and has almost 8 years of experience working with kids in one of the most kid (and adult) feared professions. I myself suffer from dental phobia, and that is not something I want to pass on to my kids.

Because the kids have a dental assistant for a father, before last week the kids had never been examined by a dentist before. But they had been to Daddy's office many times. I believe that familiarity with the surroundings helped them a lot. Builder Boy did very well, but Early Bird still had some reservations.

The panoramic x-rays were a problem for him. Principal Daddy says, because this is the least invasive x-ray, he's never encountered such resistance before. He suggests doing only what x-rays your young child is comfortable with. If they're not comfortable with any of it, then don't do any. The goal of the first visit is a good experience. It is not necessary to push through the first time.

Early Bird wasn't quite thrilled with the chair. (I hate them, too.) Getting the chair back and in position and then letting him get on helped with that. In the past we've let them "ride" the chair up and down, just to get them comfortable with it; but it had been a while.

One of the things that really seemed to help Early Bird was that we brought our tablet with his favorite game. When he got too stressed out, we handed him the tablet and let him take a break. It really helped to calm him down. And it was great for the in between waiting times. Builder Boy was content with the in flight movie, but Early Bird wasn't into it.

When it came time to do the actual work, it helped that Early Bird knew the guy working on him. Principal Daddy has practiced with them, flossing their teeth with them lying down with their heads in his lap. They've also been getting practice with a buzzing sound in their mouths by using an electric toothbrush every night. When it came time for the buzzing tooth polisher, Early Bird had a little bit of trouble, but once it was started, it was familiar enough to his usual toothbrush that it was okay. He did complain about the sound; I wished I'd had muffling headphones for him. It also helped to let Early Bird touch the buzzing polisher with his hand, with him in control, before putting it in his mouth.

Thanks to Daddy being the one who brushes and flosses their teeth most nights (yes, even the 7 year old) there were no cavities to be dealt with. After the special cleaning it was just a quick check by the dentist and some fluoride and we were outta there! Familiarity helped a lot; many offices will let you bring your kid in before their appointment to meet, walk around, and observe to get comfortable with their surroundings. If you find an office willing, several "getting to know you" visits and tours might be a good idea for an extra nervous kid.

Builder Boy Chillin'
So here are the

 8 Tips for Taking Your Kid to the Dentist

  1. Familiarity is extremely helpful.
  2. Find someone who is good with kids and will work with you.*
  3. Start at home by using an electric toothbrush so they're used to something buzzing in their mouth and floss their teeth with them lying back so they're used to being worked on in that position.
  4. Bring a distraction/something that calms them down and gives them a mental break.
  5. If they tend to be sensitive to noise, bring noise canceling headphones or a music player with headphones. 
  6. For sensory sensitive kids, I have been told that a wet, cold washcloth on the back of the neck can help distract the brain. (Disclaimer: I have no experience with this.)
  7. If information helps your kid: give it to them. Builder Boy is fascinated with the "bugs on his teeth." But if your kid is not like that: Principal Daddy recommends keeping things vague.
  8. Don't be afraid to bribe. We used dinner at their favorite restaurant. And cookies. And the treasure box the office had.

*For parents of younger kids: find out what the age restriction is for seeing a pediatric dentist for the first time. With some states or insurances, if you don't see the pediatric dentist for the first time before they are 5 or 7, they will not be covered. Once they're being seen by one they will be covered until they are quite a bit older, but if you try to see one for the first time after the limit, it's no good.

For this week only, Principal Daddy is willing to answer any preparing, non-medical questions asked in the comments section. He will not be able to give medical advice, but any questions about how to approach situations with your child will be addressed within his experience.

This blog post was my contribution to the GHF blog hop. Click here for more great blog posts.


  1. Oh, goodness, this is EXACTLY what I need.

    See, Mad Natter has SPD. He is both a sensory seeker, and a sensory avoider, and does not like what he cannot control. We are spending an inordinate amount of money out of pocket because he can't simply see a pediatric dentist, but has to go to the pediatric oral surgeon. Because of Mad Natter's sensory issues, it is a challenge to get his teeth brushed - flossing may result in losing a finger. Naturally, this means it's never a good thing when he needs to see the dentist - it winds up being a lot of cavities, poking, prodding, the nasal NO2, and... then the freaking out. He corrects the dentist when he talks about the "sugar bugs" on his teeth, and informs him they're *bacteria* in case the dentist didn't know.

    Yes, all the novelization for a reason. We would love for our regular dentist (the one who works with kids in the same office as MY dentist) to be able to take over Mad Natter's dental care. First because we love the kid's dentist, and second because he's covered 100% instead of 100%... less the 'specialist' fees. So, I'm wondering what we can do to facilitate this. The issues in play are a need to chew, the dislike of the NO2 over his nose, a fear of needles, a small mouth (he comes by this one honestly - I have it, my mother has it, her mother had it...), and a general dislike of having a stranger's hands in his mouth. The last time we tried this, everything went very well (considering he was 4), until it came time for fillings. The fillings on their own were no problem, but the spacer put in to keep the filling from joining the two teeth was a HUGE issue. Didn't like it, didn't want it, nothing would keep him in the chair at that point.

    I'm already taking the points of flossing with his head in my lap, and the frequent breaks - as well as the inclusion of a tablet! - and will be moving ahead with those, but if we could find a way to help him through fillings, it would be a HUGE help!

    Okay, I'm done now. Thank you MrsWarde - AND Principal Daddy! <3

  2. Oh man, the dentist has been the WORST for my son! I second the headphones/music thing. A patient dentist is a must. Handholding and leg-rubbing are also my go-to's (yes, for my 14 year old!!). And big hugs and a reward when it's all over and done with :-)

  3. Thank you and Principal Daddy very much for such helpful tips! I wish we could rewind and try those early dentist visits again using some of these suggestions!

  4. I have two kids who don't mind going to the dentist. The staff there are so nice to the kids, and they get stickers. That may be all it takes to get kids to go.

    1. Sometimes that is enough, and how wonderful that that has been your experience. (Not sarcasm.) But some children's minds and attitudes work differently and these tips were intended to help those children for whom kind professionals and stickers are not enough.

  5. Nice to read this article will be very helpful in the future, share more info with us. Good job! dental implants south bay

  6. What a good idea to get your child an electric toothbrush! I have never considered how strange it might be the first time a kid goes to the dentist to have something buzzing around their mouth! My sister-in-law has been trying to figure out how to keep her kids from being nervous at the dentist. I will have to suggest this to her!

  7. Wow! Your tips are really helpful, Mrs. Warde. Children must be really familiarized with a dental clinic's ambiance, so that they'll know what to expect during their trip to the dentist. I'm amazed with your precise and informative post. Thanks for sharing it! All the best to your lovely family!

    Milton Wilson @ A Plus Family Dentist

  8. it's a very helpful article, In my opinion, every mom wanna-be should understand that being pregnant is a miracle, so they will take care their children with a great love and understanding.

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