Just say CHEESE! If you’ve taken your child to see the dentist, you may have an idea where I’m going with this… A trip to the dentist conjures up scary and frightening thoughts for many, from children to adults. I’ll be the first to admit getting my teeth cleaned, X-Rays and my gums poked and prodded isn’t my idea of a spa day, but it also isn’t the end of the world. I know of peers who to this day still need “laughing gas” and other aides to get through a routine check-up at the dentist, and for those that get more involved procedures — think “deep cleaning,” I get it, it’s no fun.
For whatever reason I assumed it wasn’t a necessary thing ’til they were like 3 years old. Well turns out that pediatricians now recommend dental visits when they hit the big ONE, or earlier if you see a potential problem. I had missed that memo and took them for their first visit this week at 1.5 and 2.5 years. However, since my mother instilled good oral care into my brain as a child, I have been diligent about having my kids brush and wash their gums since before they had teeth, I’ve been “anal” about when they needed to stop using a bottle and pacifier, as well as only allowing them to have watered-down apple juice.
I did a search for a pediatric dentist when it came to making my appointment. Our pediatric office offered a recommended list, so I went off of that and then it basically came down to insurance, location, appointment availability and did I think their website made them appear “child-friendly.” Of all my own personal childhood memories, I do remember my visits to the pediatric dentist and it’s always stuck with me. Everything from the laughing gas while I got my teeth cleaned to the cute wooden horsey where they kept all the “prizes” you got to pick from when the appointment was “all done.”
Anyway, I did find one that allowed me to bring both of my boys at the same time and I did my best to prepare them ahead of time. For at least a week before we went I kept reminding them that we were going to see the “teeth doctor,” and they would just need to say ‘cheese’ while he looked at their smile. We practiced how to open wide, stick out your tongue and say “Ah,” and I assured them it would be no big deal.
When we arrived at the dental office, it was still all good as they played in the office’s play area and checked out the other kids in the waiting room. But then when it was time to go in, the fear and panic set in over my older toddler. He immediately started to cry and whine, without anyone even laying a finger on him! Isaiah was chill and easily took the hand of the dental assistant to enter the exam area. We managed to “bribe” Raef by informing him of the presents waiting for him inside.
It was all really quick and easy. When they are that young, the dentist really just checks to make sure their (baby) teeth are all growing in correctly and that there aren’t any emerging cavities or early oral issues, so no formal cleaning, scraping or x-rays. Each of my son’s took a turn sitting in my lap (facing me), and then laid back into the lap of the dentist who promptly took out his tool, counted and examined their teeth, before declaring we were doing a good job and to keep it up! It literally was maybe a minute or so each…my boys (see above photos) didn’t even want to take their hats or jackets off for the exam. Of course some tears did roll and it was a “noisy” few minutes, but my guys got through it and we’re now good to go for 6 more months.
And — of course they were more than happy to accept their new toothbrushes, floss sticks, stickers, bouncy balls and pinwheels as their “rewards” for enduring their visit to the dentist. Moral of the story, it may be traumatizing for you as the parent, I actually had to suppress a laugh or two at the “drama” exhibited by my older toddler, but the important thing is that we did it. I am a firm believer of getting them used to dental visits as young as possible. A smile is SO important and I want to make sure my kids have great, big, bright ones to last them a lifetime!