A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our son for his very first visit to the dentist. I was bracing myself for complete and utter disaster; protest, tears, uncooperativeness, utter mayhem. I was certain that the scary mask, the loud tools and the bright light would be too much for my sensitive three-year-old to handle. So when the visit went off without a hitch and involved lots of smiles, giggles and a fluoride treatment to boot, I was in utter shock! Here are some helpful tips and strategies that I feel contributed to this very positive experience as well as some useful information that I acquired as a first time mom concerning dental health:
Preparation is key- For weeks leading up to the appointment, my husband and I spoke to our son about the “special doctor who was going to count his teeth”. We really tried to reframe a trip to the dentist as a very cool, positive thing. “Dr. Melissa” became the topic of conversation during the bedtime routine as I brushed my son’s teeth. Our goal was to try and prepare our son as best we could by demystifying the unknown and providing him with as much knowledge as possible. We wanted to foster a sense of curiosity as opposed to fear. I feel that this preparation really paid off. He knew what to expect, and he was at ease as he eagerly jumped onto the “magic chair”, opening his mouth as wide as he could!
Finding the right dentist- Finding the right dentist for my son was an integral part of making this such a positive experience. I asked around, inquiring both with friends and family and came across Dr. Melissa Paskell, who was highly recommended. It was obvious from the second we walked into her office that she was a dentist who catered to kids; lots of books, toys and a big aquarium, what more could a kid ask for? The receptionist greeted us with a huge, welcoming smile. Jodi, the hygienist was funny, patient and very engaging. She took the time to explain every step to my son. Each intervention was done at my son’s pace; no rushing, no pressure. Dr. Paskell was gentle, kind and knowledgeable, answering any and all questions we had.
Who knew??- For some reason, I was under the assumption that a child’s first visit to the dentist should take place around age three. However, after speaking with Dr. Paskell as well as consulting with The Canadian Dental Association’s website, I was informed that it should be closer to the age of one. Oops!!! Ok, so I was a few years late, but better late than never! As well, ever since he was a baby, part of my son’s bedtime routine involved milk before bed. Innocent and well intentioned enough, right? Well, Dr. Paskell educated me by gently informing me that milk before bed (without brushing teeth) could significantly contribute to tooth decay. For a split second I felt like I should have known better, but I caught myself, cut myself some slack and adopted Maya Angelou’s mantra, “when you know better, you do better”!
I realized that as a mom of a three year old, I always seem to anticipate the worst and then am astonished when things go smoothly. I learned that sometimes, my son can be more open and adaptable than I give him credit for. It’s not to say that he didn’t have a complete meltdown when it came time to choose his prize at the end of the visit, but hey…..as a parent, you take what you can get!