Are you taking your toddler to the dentist soon, and you’re worried about what will happen? Or have you tried taking your toddler to the dentist, but it didn’t work out? Maybe it was a struggle even just to get your toddler to sit on the dental chair and open the mouth for the dentist to peek inside.
If that’s you, know that you’re not alone. This is a very common challenge! I’ve heard that there are two experiences people dread the most: (1) public speaking and (2) going to the dentist.
If that’s you, read on. We’ll share practical tips to help you prepare your toddler for a trip to the dentist, so you have a smooth and successful experience.
If your baby or toddler has a dental visit coming up soon, here are five strategies that can make the experience easier for both of you. While many of these will be easier if your child is already conversing, they will still be helpful even for a baby who isn’t talking yet.
1. Don’t miss your preventive dental health visits.
Don’t wait until there’s already tooth decay when more unpleasant procedures will be needed. It’s much easier to visit the dentist for the first time if it’s just to check the teeth and brush on some fluoride.
2. Choose the ideal schedule.
Schedule your appointment for a time when you and your child are feeling relaxed and rested. At first, I was offered an appointment for the afternoon. However, I requested a morning appointment instead since that’s when my son is more alert.
3. Prepare for the visit by talking about it, or through pretend play.
Before the visit, inquire from your dentist what will happen. Then explain it to your child using a story like the one here.
“The Berenstain Bears Go to the Dentist” is another great story you can use.
Our dentist recommended “practicing” by letting my child lie down while I brush his teeth. You can also let your child pretend to be the dentist at home, with his stuffed animals as the “patients”.
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4. Help your child during the dental visit.
Make sure your child is well-rested and not hungry. Bring some snacks and water in case they get hungry along the way. If fluoride treatment is administered, your child won’t be able to eat or drink anything for at least 30 minutes afterward – so be sure your child isn’t so hungry or thirsty that they won’t be able to wait it out.
During the visit, explain (or ask the dentist to explain) what’s happening step-by-step.
Remember that each child is different. Some kids adjust to new experiences easily, while it will be more challenging for others. So take your time and don’t rush it.
5. Talk about it afterward.
Point out the highlights of the visit, and what went well. “I love how you sat on the dental chair.” Or, “I love how you greeted the dentist.” This will help make future appointments more successful.
Remember that taking care of your baby or toddler’s teeth is very important for good health and development! A bad tooth can make your toddler’s picky eating stage more difficult. Not to mention – painful teeth can make tantrums worse and more frequent.
Finally, don’t get discouraged if things don’t go as smoothly as you hoped. Even older children and adults have challenges when going to the dentist! But with these tips, you’ll be on your way to having more positive experiences in this vital part of taking care of your child’s teeth.
If you’re worried your toddler will throw a tantrum during your trip to the dentist, check out the Handling Toddler Tantrums Checklist – and you’ll know what to do the next time your child has a tantrum!