Tips To Make Your Child’s Dentist Visit Easier
Before you assume that getting your toddler into the dentist’s chair will involve either a tantrum or bribery, remember that your child doesn’t harbor any ill will toward the dentist — yet. After all, he hasn’t had a close encounter with The Drill. For him, that first visit could be as much fun as a stop at the local amusement park (the chair goes up and down, back and forth!). So keep your own negative feelings in check (if you have any) and let your child enjoy his first dental visit with the same enthusiasm as a visit to Grandma’s (without the candy, of course).
Overcoming Fear Of The Dentist
Some toddlers have anxiety about medical and dental checkups, and their fears are completely understandable. Do your best to be patient with your little patient, and let him know you recognize how he feels. To help alleviate anxiety, here are a few tactics to try before and during the appointment:
- Read up and role-play: Read picture books about visiting the dentist, and encourage your toddler to play “dentist” with a stuffed animal or doll — opening wide, looking inside and giving teeth a polish.
- Use positive language: Explain to your sweetie that a dentist is a doctor who helps build healthy, strong teeth, but avoid getting into much technical detail about the visit, which may confuse more than it clears up.
- Come prepared: Bring along comfort toys and distractions for the waiting room and the dentist’s chair.
- Plan a treat: Something as simple as a trip to the playground after the dentist can help your toddler stay focused on the positive.
- Stay relaxed: Your own stress or anxiety about the dentist may be more noticeable than you think, especially for a perceptive and sensitive toddler. If you’re cheerful and calm, you set the tone for your child to be, too.
- Be a good cheerleader: Congratulate your kiddo whenever you can (“Good job opening wide!”), and try to be supportive, not critical, if your child has a hard time cooperating. And remember: Even if he kicks and screams the whole time, it’s nothing an experienced pediatric dentist hasn’t seen before.
How Often To Visit The Dentist
Based on how your toddler’s teeth look, your dentist will let you know when to make the next visit. Most experts recommend that toddlers see the dentist about every six months — as long as there are no major problems. So don’t forget to schedule your child’s second appointment on your way out the door!
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect the Second Year. Health information on this site is based on peer-reviewed medical journals and highly respected health organizations and institutions including ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), as well as the What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff.