The idea of taking Pumpkin for her first dental visit is stressing me out. All I can picture happening is Pumpkin refusing to get in the chair, and then if we do manage to get her in the chair, I can just see her flat-out refusing to open her mouth. Then what?!
Ever since Pumpkin was 2 months old she has been a slow-to-warm-up baby. It doesn’t matter if she has seen you a hundred times before, shared laughs and cuddles with you. She needs a few minutes or sometimes even an hour to warm up to you every time she sees you. It’s just the way she is. Her Daddy and I do our best to respect her temperament – we don’t force her on strangers and we keep ourselves available when she’s feeling unsure about someone. But how do we prepare her for a trip to a dental office, something that requires her to not only interact with strangers, but also to let them examine her mouth and eventually clean her teeth?
I’ve gathered some tips about preparing our little ones for their first trip to the dentist, and I thought I would pass them on:
- Start early – try to bring your baby for their first dental appointment around the age of 1 or soon after the first teeth make their appearance. Babies don’t usually have problems at this age, but the idea is to prevent problems and to get your little one comfortable with going to the dentist. Don’t wait for an emergency!
- Bring your baby or toddler with you for your own dental appointments and to other family members’ appointments. This will make the dental office a familiar place.
- Keep a positive attitude – about your own dental appointments and about your child’s appointment. Remember even very young babies can pick up fear and tension. When talking about the dentist, only talk about the good things about going to the dentist.
- Play ‘dentist’! Take turns opening your mouths wide. Count your toddler’s teeth, and then let her count yours. Make it fun and explain that this is what the dentist will do. Check out this cute Sesame Street video my daughter loves:
- If your child is slow to warm up, or has never been to this particular dental office, consider making a casual appointment for a friendly tour of the dental office with a ‘ride in the chair’ and a chance to meet the dentist and dental hygienist. If your child is feeling up to it, have the dental hygienist look into your child’s mouth and count her teeth.
- Book dental appointments when your child is usually in a good mood and not likely to be hungry or tired. Most babies and toddlers are most cooperative in the morning when they are well-rested.
- If your tot has a security object such as a favourite stuffed toy or a cherished blanket, bring it along.
- Whatever you do, don’t bribe, threaten or punish your little one if he’s reluctant or if things aren’t going well. It will only backfire on you! Stay calm and positive, reschedule if you need to.
- Try not to make dental appointments a big deal. Over preparing your toddler or making it a special event is more likely to make your child nervous. Going to the dentist should be seen as a routine – something we all do to take care of our teeth.
Pumpkin came with me to my last dental appointment and it actually went really well. She got to meet everyone there and loved the chair that went up and down. She was shy, but she did open her mouth and the dental hygienist was able to see her teeth. The best part was when we got home – she was very interested in brushing and even flossing her teeth!
How did your little one’s first trip to a dental office go? We love to hear from you, there are many ways to connect with us:
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For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.