Today I thought I would take a little time to share how we have eased our children into their first dental appointments. For my first 6 years overseas I did not have a dentist. I would wait until I returned home to Canada to see my beloved dentist, Dr. Friesen (honestly, this is his real name!). I have been seeing him since I was in high school and he is brilliant. He had such a memory he could remember which university classes I was taking during the previous visit and would always ask about them. I didn’t trust anyone else with my teeth as he was so gentle and thurough.
Once I became pregnant with Tristan and I was eligible for free dental care in the UK, I put myself on a few waiting lists across a few towns nearby. Here in the UK you are eligible for free dental care while you are pregnant and until the baby turns one. Tristan arrived early and I was finally able to get into a practice. I went every three months for a cleaning and every six months for a check up. Whenever an appointment came up Tristan and I would take the train to make it a special trip. It is a small practice and not a lot of room for a stroller, but we did manage to squeeze into the reception room and the treatment room. Tristan would sometimes be asleep (going for a walk in the stroller was about the only time he did sleep), or if he was awake, I would position him so that he could see what was happening so that he would become used to the dental surroundings and not be scared upon his first visit when it was time.
Before I would go to a dentist’s appointment, we would do a little role-playing with a little mirror included in Tristan’s doctor’s kit and have a look around in each other’s mouths. When he was 2 and was booked in for his first appointment, I sat up in the chair first to give him time to become reacquainted with process. But when it came time for him to sit in the big chair he sat up on my lap but would NOT open his mouth at all! Not even a crowbar would have pried his little lips open! Tristan is very shy and it takes him quite a while to feel comfortable in new situations, and even when he returns to somewhere he’s been before (like Mom and Toddler groups, friend’s homes, etc.) so this wasn’t too surprising. He received a sticker, and praise for sitting on my lap in the big chair, and we left it at that for that first visit.
It took a few more visits before Tristan was comfortable enough for the Dentist to have a peek into his mouth. His little sister, Kallista was a little more adventurous during one of Tristan’s visits and she was agreeable to sitting in the chair to show Tristan that it was ok. As it turned out that day Tristan wouldn’t sit in the chair at all, but Kallista had her first official appointment instead! Here is a photo of her in the big chair proudly holding the mirror we brought from home.
We’ve read the book, “My First…Visit to The Dentist” by Eve Marleau and Michael Garton, borrowed from our local library. We read it before we have another appointment to help prepare the children for their next trip. It’s a nice book that explains about what happens at the dentist’s office so that children aren’t scared about what will happen to them.
We now go see the dentist together as a family to keep the scheduling easier. At our last appointment Daddy was in the chair first to be checked out. Then it was my turn, followed by Kallista and Tristan. Tristan still wasn’t too sure about his visit.
Tristan is now ok to have his teeth checked if he is on my lap. You can almost see me underneath, giving Tristan a cuddle to make him feel safe and secure.
Both Tristan and Kallista received BIG stickers after their appointment, and were congratulated on having no cavities! Yeah team work!!
This week Tristan found some photos from Kallista’s first dentist visit and made a page for his book from it. He’s drawn a sink, toothbrush, and toothpaste as well as showing the Knockagh monument that we see on the Train on the way to the visit.
How do you prepare your children for the dentist?