Nervous about your toddler’s first dentist appointment? Take these steps early on to help your child have a positive first experience at the dentist!
Introduce oral hygiene early
The AAP recommends that caregivers start cleaning baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. Wipe down the tooth with a piece of clean gauze or damp cloth. Not only does this keep the tooth clean, it provides a sensory experience for the baby. Your baby will become used to an object wiping their teeth and know what it feels like to have something near their teeth and in their mouth. As kids get older (toddler age), you can let them pretend to brush their favorite doll or stuffed animals teeth, or they can pretend to brush your teeth to prepare them for brushing their own teeth in the future.
Take them to the dentist early
The AAP recommends that children have their first dentist visit within six months of their first tooth coming in or at 12 months of age, whichever happens first. Taking them to the dentist at this young age not only lets the dentist assess the condition of the tooth or teeth, it also gets baby used to dental appointments early on and makes seeing the dentist a part of their routine. Provide your child with a lot of love and support when they visit the dentist, especially their first appointment. For extra support, bring your child’s favorite toy or stuffed animal.
Make the car ride, waiting room, and drive home fun
With toddlers, the more you can turn activities or chores into games or fun experiences, the better. Play car games that promote communication skills to and from the appointment. Play “I Spy” or other fun games in the waiting room. Bringg their favorite toy or stuffie (we covered this) so they can hug if they get nervous, or show to the dentist.
Talk about their teeth and the dentist
Infants won’t understand as much about trips to the dentist as well as toddlers will. As kids get older, get them interested in their teeth and dental health by explaining to them how important it is to consistently brush teeth and see the dentist. Read books about teeth or trips to the dentist, role-play dentist with your child, or let them practice brushing teeth on you or a stuffed animal. This should spark curiosity and excitement about their upcoming appointment. If they’re excited about it, they’re more likely to have a good experience.
Kids mimic behavior. Be an example of good oral hygiene and talk positively about the dentist. If you frame it as a good experience, your child is more likely to do so as well!
Have more questions? Here are parents’ Frequently asked questions about pediatric dentistry.