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What You Need to Know About Making Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist a Success!

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When should my kids first visit the dentist and what can I do to help them prepare? I’m partnering with River Park Dental to answer some of your questions about your child’s first trip to the dentist!

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure here.

I waited, what I thought was, a really long time to take my kids to the dentist. I was dreading it, to be honest. My oldest son has some struggles with anxiety so I put off taking him, afraid that it was going to be a horrible experience. When I finally did take them, my oldest was in Kindergarten and my youngest son was 3.

kid getting teeth cleaned at first visit to the dentist

Thanks to the amazing staff at River Park Dental, our first visit to the dentist was 1000% better than I expected. It was so good, in fact, that my kids would ask when they could go back and when they did have another visit scheduled, my son woke up saying, “I can’t wait to go to the dentist!” Now if that isn’t a testament to the experience River Park Dental provides, I don’t know what is!

pictures of patients at River Park Dental

I want to use this post to answer some common questions about taking your kids to the dentist for the first time. Hopefully with a little preparation you can take your kids to the dentist with confidence! Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, or a dentist, and this advice was written in partnership with River Park Dental, but please consult your own doctor or dentist for advice pertaining to your own child!

When should kids first visit the dentist?

kids watching videos at first dentist visit

Missy, our dental hygienist at River Park Dental, recommends that age 3 is a great age to take your child to the dentist for the first time. Of course if you have concerns, by all means take your child earlier, but age 3 is when kids will start to be a little more open to the experience!

What if my kid freaks out and doesn’t cooperate?

Or am I the only one asking that question? ha! The ladies at River Park Dental have been around the block a few times when it comes to this teeth cleaning thing. In other words, this will not be the first time they’ve experienced a toddler tantrum when trying to stick their fingers in a child’s mouth!

Missy said, “Don’t be disappointed if the first visit doesn’t go as you hope.” “Don’t be frustrated,” she continued, “We don’t think anything about it. We’re not looking at you any different. We just go with it.” Basically, no judgement here. They’ve seen it all before!

What should I expect at my kid’s first dentist appointment?

At River Park Dental, they try to make the first (and every) visit as fun as possible and if the child is not cooperating, they aren’t going to push anything. The main goal is to try to at least get a good visual of what’s going on inside your child’s mouth!

kids picking from the treasure chest at first dentist visit

At River Park Dental, kids can choose a video to watch on the screen overhead. There are a lot of fun books and 2 iPads in the waiting room. At the end of the visit, kids get to pick a prize from the treasure chest! The whole experience is kind of a treat for my kids!

kid at iPad visiting the dentist for the first time

When should a child brush their own teeth?

I talked with Missy about this because, though my pediatrician recommends that I let my 4 year old brush his own teeth, I am still doing it. The dental hygienist sides with me! Missy told me, “Brush your children’s teeth as long as you can.” Baby enamel is thin and prone to cavities. She recommends children age 5 and up can begin brushing their own teeth but that parents should still follow up.

What do I have as proof of this? My 4 year old’s teeth had way less plaque on them than my 7 year old’s. So I’m continuing to brush. 

How do I prepare my child for their first dentist visit?

When you take your child to the dentist for the first time, the hygienist is going to wear gloves and a mask and it can be a little bit scary for kids. One way to prepare them is to read some books about going to the dentist that show a dentist with a mask and using some of the equipment they will see. That way your kids will know what to expect when they get there.

This is a sampling of some of the books that River Park Dental has in their office.

These books give a good overview of what it’s like for kids to go to the dentist for the first time:

going to the dentist book by mercer mayer

Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer

berenstain bears go to the dentist book for toddlers

The Berenstain Bears Visit The Dentist by Stan & Jan Berenstain

curious george goes to the dentist book for toddlers

Curious George Visits the Dentist by H.A. Rey

There is, of course, a Daniel Tiger episode about his first trip to the dentist! Check out the book adaptation here: Daniel Goes to the Dentist adapted by Alexandra Cassel

These books are geared toward elementary school kids and deal with loose teeth:

Loose tooth book for first readers

Freckleface Strawberry Loose Tooth by Julianne Moore (Step 2)

My wobbly tooth must not ever never fall out book

My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Ever Never Fall Out by Lauren Child

Loose Tooth Book

Loose Tooth by Lola M. Schaefer (I can read book)

These books talk about taking care of your teeth and why kids need to do so:

cutie sue fights the germs book

Cutie Sue Fights the Germs by Kate Melton

no place for sugar bugs book for dental visits

No Place for Sugar Bugs by Rose O. Waderya DMD

Also:

Sugarbug Doug by Dr. Ben Magleby (There’s also a Sugarbug Doug coloring book!)

The Tooth Book A guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Edward Miller

Does my baby need to go to the dentist?

While it was recommended that age 3 is a great age to take your child to the dentist, there are some cases where River Park Dental can help your infant. River Park Dental performs frenulectomies and frenectomies for infants and children
“Tongued-tied” babies can struggle with bottle or breast feeding. Being tongue tied can also result in a speech impediment when kids get older. River Park Dental can perform tongue and lip tie revisions with a Solea laser right in the office.

What other questions do you have about taking your kids to the dentist?

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kids at the dentist


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How to Rock the Twelve Elves of Dublin Scavenger Hunt

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Over the weekend we spent Saturday morning exploring Historic Downtown Dublin doing the Twelve Elves of Dublin scavenger hunt! This is a totally fun outing with something for the whole family! I’m partnering with Historic Dublin to tell you how to Rock the Scavenger Hunt in this December!

Found the Elf at Daso Custom Cabinetry!

In 12 participating businesses around Historic Dublin, an elf is hiding, just waiting to be found by your eager kiddos! You can begin the hunt at any one of the 12 locations by picking up an Elf Card and finding the elf. At each stop, the kids can point out the Elf to the employee and they will receive a small prize and a stamp on their card. The small prizes are a mix of candy, stickers, tattoos, etc.

Finding the Elf at Ha’penny Bridge Imports of Ireland brought this little guy lots of satisfaction!

Head to all 12 locations, in no particular order, collecting your stamps and prizes. When finished, you can turn your Elf Card into any of the participating businesses and the accompanying adult will be entered into a drawing to win a prize basket filled with prizes from each of the participating businesses! (See, there’s a win for the parents, too! 😉 )

Dublin Ohio CVB Visitor Center was one of our first stops!

Getting our cards at Boho 72 Boutique!

My kids were totally into the hunt! They were surprisingly focused on finding each elf. Well, let me clarify, my first born, type A child was focused on the exact number they had found and how many more were left to find. My second child, just 3 years old, was focused on where to get the next piece of candy! 😉

Candy cane prizes at Ha’penny Bridge Imports of Ireland!

It had been a while since I walked around Downtown Dublin on foot, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of getting the kids around. It turned out that all of the locations were surprisingly close! My 3 year old had no trouble keeping up without a stroller. We even back-tracked a few times to go to places that hadn’t opened yet when we started the hunt.

If you aren’t in the holiday spirit before walking around Downtown Dublin, you will be! The city is beautifully decorated! It’s kind of like walking around in a Christmas card!

Historic Dublin

This was such a fun thing to do as a family! It took us about 2 1/2 hours, but that included a leisurely stop for lunch. I would allow 1-2 hours to complete the hunt depending on your family and your schedule.

This scavenger hunt is NOT hard and we accomplished it with very little planning ahead! BUT I’m going to give you 5 tips to rock the scavenger hunt so you have a fun family time with very few hiccups!

1. View the Elf Card and Map online

Click here to view the Elf Card and Map! The kids loved having the official Elf Card, so I would suggest picking the actual card up at your first stop, but having the map printed out will help you plan out your path ahead of time if you are so inclined!

2. Know your parking options before you get there

There are several public parking lots in Historic Dublin. See this map for ideas.

3. Check the hours of the stores

We got a jump start on Saturday morning, and some of the shops did not open until 11:00 AM or 12:00 PM so we had to backtrack. Also Daso Custom Cabinetry generally closes at 1:00 PM on Saturdays, so this is something to keep in mind if you’re doing it on the weekend. (Though they will be staying open until 4:00 PM this Saturday, December 9th.) Backtracking wasn’t that big of a deal for us because everything is so close, but if you’re on a time crunch, you’ll want to pay closer attention to this. See the list of participating locations here.

4. Plan out your options for snacks and meals

There are two stops on the hunt where you can have a full meal. We had lunch at Donatos about halfway through the hunt. La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro is the other option with a full menu. You may also want to consider your timing when stopping into the other restaurants! Perhaps pick Winans for a coffee stop before lunch or Johnson’s Ice Cream or Our CupCakery for dessert afterwards! (Though I do want to say you are not required to purchase anything to participate in the hunt and we felt no pressure to do so at any of the locations!)

Chocolate is the prize at Winans Dublin!

Can’t beat pizza at Donatos for a mid-hunt break!

Finding the Elf was tricky at La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro!

Find the Elf and a little ice cream treat at Johnson’s Real Ice Cream!

The cutest holiday cupcakes at Our CupCakery!

5. Build in time for the adults to enjoy the hunt, too!

This hunt doesn’t have to be just for the kids. This is a great opportunity to get some holiday shopping done, pick up a few decorating tips or take care of some business! We even took a few minutes to appreciate fine art at Terra Gallery! (P.S. There is an Adult Holiday Hunt taking place on December 9, 2017!)

Perusing the finer side of art at Terra Gallery!

Decorate for the holidays at Chelsea Borough Home!

Kids you can pick out a Christmas gift for mom at Boho 72 Boutique . . . Hint Hint!

A Christmas Story throwback at Dean Insurance Group!

We had a blast seeing Dublin in a new way! I highly recommend this activity for a low-cost holiday outing that is fun for the whole family!

The boys were very proud of their completed Elf Cards!

Mail a letter to Santa while you’re at it!

Know Before You Go:

-The 12 Elves of Dublin scavenger hunt takes place between December 2 – December 16, 2017.

-The participating locations are as follows:

Boho 72 Boutique
Chelsea Borough Home
Daso Custom Cabinetry
Dean Insurance Group
Donatos Pizza
Dublin (Ohio) Historical Society at Dublin Ohio CVB Visitor Center
Ha’penny Bridge Imports of Ireland
Johnson’s Real Ice Cream – Dublin
La Chatelaine French Bakery & Bistro
Our CupCakery
Terra Gallery
Winans Dublin

-Your completed card must be returned to any of the participating businesses by the end of day December 16, 2017.

-The winner of the grand prize drawing will be awarded Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

See all the details here!

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ICYMI: 10 of Our Favorite Columbus Christmas Traditions


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