How to Prepare

s-pediatric1.jpgFew children grow up without learning songs and games designed to teach them about the many parts of their body – their eyes, their ears, their elbows, knees and toes. So why not teach them about their tongue and teeth? There are plenty of books, songs, crafts, activities and even apps that can help parents teach their children about the importance of keeping their teeth healthy and strong. The more parents get their children involved in their own oral care, the easier their first visit will be.

An especially effective method is one of the simplest: brush your teeth with your child. Keep in mind that toothbrushes are tools, not toys, and that children should be closely monitored. However, observing others brushing their teeth and being invited to participate can have a lasting effect on a growing child. And even though children can practice the motions of brushing their teeth, it ultimately falls on the parent to ensure the child’s teeth are properly brushed.

But let’s be honest – there are lots of things that vie for a baby’s or toddler’s attention, and brushing their teeth or visiting the dentist may not rank well on a child’s list of desirable activities. Parents simply shouldn’t be surprised if their little one puts up a fuss. However, many infants can be surprisingly accepting of their first dental exam, especially when properly prepared. We encourage a “first this, then that” approach to tooth brushing, such as “first we’ll brush our teeth, then we’ll play a game.” That way, the tooth brushing experience is seen as a positive routine.

Babies and toddlers are very perceptive of the attitudes and behaviors of those around them. That’s why it’s important to remain positive and relaxed before and during the dental visit. We recommend parents bring another adult with them, so that they can have the time and flexibility to speak freely with the dentist about any concerns. We also recommend not bringing other children to the first dental visit, so that your energy can be focused on the child being seen.

Children will also be calmer and more accepting when they have been prepared. Using a special “going to the dentist” outfit or reading from a particular book about dental visits are common strategies. Remember to be positive when mentioning the dentist to your child – instead of phrases like “be brave” (which suggests something to fear), use phrases like “the dentist is going to count your teeth” or “let’s show the dentist how well you’ve been brushing.” Older siblings can be good role models and also talk about dental visits in a positive way. Bringing children with you to other dental visits can also help acclimate them to the sights and sounds of a dental office.