5 Tips for That First Dentist Appointment

first-dentist-appt-585Taking care of a young child’s teeth is a little bit of a roller coaster ride, at least in our house. With both kids, we’ve had highs—yay, brushing teeth, have at it!—and lows—clamping-mouth shut-so-you-cannot-get-in-there moments. You try to start brushing with that first tooth. More teeth are added, which means that the teething child would rather bite on the toothbrush than let you actually brush. Then the independent stage hits, and they want to do everything themselves, and their version of brushing their teeth…well, let’s just say it’s more about running the water at full blast than actually brushing. We always “check Ms. Independent’s work” or “count teeth” to make sure the teeth get brushed.

In the vein of starting dental care early, we made my eldest’s first dentist appointment recently. Many sources say that you should have your child visit the dentist by the time they hit a year old. Seeing as how my daughter will be three in August, I’ve been putting it off for awhile now. Mostly because I haven’t thought it that necessary, and also because my dentist didn’t really think she needed to be seen before she hit 3.

I’ve never had a reason to be scared of the dentist. I’ve never had a cavity (knock on so much wood), and while orthodontics were long and caused a lot of soreness, I’ve always been a tough cookie. So when I made my daughter’s first dentist appointment, I didn’t want to even let the idea enter her head that the dentist was something to fear. And whether it was talking to her about the appointment every day leading up to D-Day (dentist day), or whether our hygienist was just that awesome (she was totally awesome), our first visit couldn’t have gone any better. Not only were there no cavities, but there were no freakouts and it was practically an enjoyable experience. Here are a few tips I’ve got to make it a positive experience!

5 Tips for the First Dentist Appointment

1. Start with a good brushing routine. Seriously, the best way to start is to have your kid used to brushing his/her teeth and to have them used to you checking their work and brushing and flossing as well.

2. Discuss the visit beforehand. I started telling my daughter about her upcoming appointment a week ahead of time. I didn’t make it out to be scary; I just said we were going to visit the tooth doctor (we’ve been quite friendly with doctors this year, so she’s already pretty comfortable there…). I told her that she’d open her mouth, and they’d clean her teeth. I told her that it might make a loud noise like my electric toothbrush. And I told her she’d get a new toothbrush.

3. Pick an awesome provider. You don’t necessarily have to pick a pediatric dentist if you love your dentist already, although they’ve got the expertise of dealing with kids a lot. The hygienist at our dentist office was amazing with my daughter. She immediately let her pick out a toothbrush for herself and her little brother, blew up a latex glove as a balloon and let her draw a face on it, and introduced her to Mr. Thirsty and Mr. Tickle (aka the spit sucker and the tooth polisher). The TV playing Nick Jr. didn’t hurt either.

4. Help coach. Having your teeth cleaned for the first time is a weird experience! So let the professionals do their job, but don’t be afraid to jump with instructions when your child is stumped. A simple “Do a big ‘aaaah’ like at the doctor” or “You can put your tongue back in now” can really help the hygienist out!

5. Don’t reward a good visit with candy. Obviously. The office had a massive box of toys, and she got to pick some for herself and her brother. That won her over forever and ever.

Do you have successful dentist visits with your kids? Have tips on check-ups or the dreaded cavity fill? (Oh, I fear that!) —Erin

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