Even though I have 4 children, each “first” is like a new experience for us all. It’s like everything I thought I remembered from the first 3 flies out of my brain and I find myself scrambling for information on the internet. Thank goodness for Google, and mommy online groups, and other friends with babies now. The most recent first that we celebrated was the first trip to the dentist!! I heard that it was suggested to take your child to the dentist before their first birthday, but after talking to our family dentist we opted to wait. We decided that closer to two was optimal for us. The dentist was comfortable with that timeframe as long as we didn’t notice any issues that would warrant a visit sooner. The week prior to our daughter’s appointment, her two older sisters had braces put on. She was able to see her big sisters sit in the dentist chairs, and watched everything that they did. I think that helped A LOT! She wanted to do what they did. When it was actually time for her appointment she hopped into the chair with no issues. I thought I would have to hold her in my lap, but she insisted on sitting in the dentist chair by herself. I dodged a bullet and we had a very, uneventful dentist visit. Here are a few tips that I’ve seen that can help you do the same:
- Include your toddler in your own or other family member’s dental appointments. By having them see what the process is like, it will lessen their fear of sitting in that big white chair. A lot of times, kids want to emulate what they see older children or grown ups do. After seeing you do it for a session or two, they should be ready to hop into a chair of their own.
- Normalize good oral hygiene at an early age. Let them see you floss and brush twice a day, and begin wiping their first teeth buds once they appear. If they see you brushing your teeth, they’ll begin to want to do the same. This will also help ease the fear of some stranger brushing them at the appointment.
- Visit your child’s dentist prior to the appointment. If this will be a new dentist, ask if you can stop by for a few minutes, a few days a before the appointment, to walk around and check out the space. If it’s a children’s dentist, the waiting room may be a great area for them to unwind and play around. If it’s not, there still may be things in place to help the child relax. My kids used to go to a children’s dentist, but it was about 45 minutes away from our home. It made more sense that we chose a local dentist which meant one that took adults and children.
- Make sure your dentist and their staff are kid friendly. If you choose not to go to a children’s dentist practice, like us, you’ll want to make sure they are equipped to handle squiggly patients. At my daughter’s appointment the waiting room staff gave us a color book and crayons to calm my daughter. She was fussy in the boring waiting room. Once she received the crayons, she was quiet. Once we got to the back, the dental hygienist put cartoons on the tv and spoke in a calm and soothing matter. My daughter loved her!!
- Reward for the experience, not for the behavior! This is a whole new world for your toddler, if they act rowdy, cry or act scared, you should still show them how proud you are for going through the experience. It may not go the way you expect the first, second or third time. Some kids just don’t want anyone fishing around in their month, and you may have to phase them into a complete cleaning. That’s OK!! All kids are unique and that’s what makes them special. If they see that you aren’t stressed or disappointed in their behavior, they may eventually come around.