Your toddler’s first dental exam will be full of new experiences and can seem like a stressful, scary event in their eyes; but it’s also the perfect opportunity to begin to teach your child good oral hygiene habits and good associations with the dentist. When making the first appointment decide whether to take your toddler to a family dentist or a pediatric dentist.
Pediatric dentists specialize in working with small children and toddlers.
Pediatric dentist have offices and equipment that cater to children. Pediatric dentists also have a soothing bedside manner that will make your toddler feel safe and calm. Once you’ve made the appointment you should prepare your toddler. Here is a guide on preparing your child for their first dental exam:
Read Kid Friendly Dental Books to Your Child
Books are an easy way to get your toddler used to the idea of going to the dentist and having someone look in their mouth. When choosing a book make sure to read it first to make sure the book talks about dental exams in a positive, gentle way. Books let your toddler know what to expect at the dental exam. Going to the dentist is much less scary when you know what’s going to happen.
Here is a list of great books to get you started:
- The Bernstein Bears Visit the Dentist, by Stan and Jan Bernstein
- Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist, A “Dora the Explorer” Book
- Going to the Dentist, by Anne Civardi
- The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums, by Edward Miller
Provide Positive Explanations About What’s Going to Happen at the Dentist
Talk to your toddler about what’s going to happen at the dentist in a positive, easy to understand way. You don’t need to tell him or her every detail. Your pediatric dentist will walk your toddler through the details step by step during the exam. You simply tell your child the dentist is going to look at their teeth and clean them to keep them healthy. You don’t need to tell your toddler how the dentist will clean their teeth or explain how going to the dentist treats tooth decay.
It will also help to tell your toddler that everyone in the family goes to the dentist. Tell your toddler about how their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles go to the dentist. If you can, schedule the family’s dental exams the day before and bring your toddler so your child will see first-hand that going to the dentist is a normal part of everyone’s life.
Listen and Answer
Give your child an opportunity to voice their fears. To a toddler, having a strange person poke around their mouth with instruments is scary. Even adults are scared of dentists so it’s important to listen to your child’s fears and reassure them. If your toddler has misunderstandings about the dentist you can clear those up. Your toddler may also have a lot of questions through curiosity.
Get the Timing Right
The last thing you want is a fussy, cranky toddler at the dental exam. The child will perceive the exam as negative if they are already irritated from a long day. The calmer your child, the more cooperative they will be and the more positive the exam will be overall. Schedule the dental exam first thing in the morning or after your child’s afternoon nap.
Minimize distractions during the exam as much as possible for both you and your child. If you have other children that have their appointments the same day, have them wait in the waiting room with another adult. If you can, schedule their appointments for different days. Focusing on your toddler’s first exam will help decrease stress for both you and your child. It’s also helpful to have another adult in the dental exam room with you and your child. This gives you the opportunity to discuss dental health issues with the dentist while the other adult keeps your baby calm.
This guide will help you and your toddler have a positive first dental exam. If you need more information or tips, contact Village Dental in Salt Lake City for a pediatric dental appointment today.More