Your toddler’s first dental visit may set the tone for how they feel about going to a dentist well into adulthood. Are they fearful? Do they think it’s a safe place because the dentist and people in the office are friendly and nice?
Think about your own childhood experiences at the dentist’s office. Did you accompany your mom, dad, or sibling to their appointment and sit in the waiting room where you played? You may not remember the specifics of your first dental cleaning, but you probably remember getting a sticker or picking out a small toy or prize after you were finished.
For most toddlers, the only other doctors they’ve ever met are probably pediatricians, who treat them when they are sick or perhaps do a wellness exam or give them a vaccination. The key to making that first dental visit a pleasant one is to prepare them about this new experience. Kavitha Gowda, DDS, and our professional dental team at Perfect Smiles Dentistry offer tips on preparing your child for their first dental cleaning.
First dental cleaning explained
Depending on the age of your toddler, the appointment may play out a little differently. Typically, the appointment tends to be more of a discussion with the parent about the child’s brushing habits, issues with thumb sucking or pacifiers, as well as things like what they eat and drink. Through these questions, Dr. Gowda can get a handle on the level of risk for tooth decay.
She then gently examines your toddler’s teeth and gums, looking for signs of cavities or other oral issues. The teeth will then be cleaned, if needed. You may wonder why these early appointments are necessary when your child is only going to lose their baby teeth anyway. Many times decay in the baby teeth puts your child at a higher risk of developing decay in permanent teeth.
Make it more fun than formal
Getting your child on the road to a lifetime of good health oral health is especially important when you take into consideration that kids who suffer from poor oral health are often absent more from school and earn lower grades than children who have good oral health. So job number one for you is making the first appointment fun, not stuffy and formal.
Your child will be taking their cues from you, so be upbeat and positive. If your child has a favorite stuffed animal or toy, bring it along to provide comfort and a feeling of safety. If an older sibling is due for a dental visit, schedule both at the same time, and have the sibling go first so the younger child can watch. Don’t forget to reward good behavior at the end. Most dentists offer stickers or a special gift for a job well done.
Set the stage with age-appropriate books or videos
There are many books and kid videos about the dentist’s office and a child’s first trip to the dentist. Providing a fun, entertaining, and educational sneak peek into this new experience will help your child know what to expect, reduce the likelihood of catching them off guard, and minimize the fear factor.
Schedule the appointment time to suit your child’s mood
Do yourself a favor and don’t schedule your child’s appointment at the time of day when they tend to be more wired, fidgety, or fussy. Definitely don’t pick naptime or a time when they’ll be hungry. After all, none of us perform particularly well when we’re hangry. Instead, pick a time of day when your child is most likely to be well-rested and reasonably easy going. Provide your child with a snack or light meal sometime before the appointment and make sure they brush their teeth prior to leaving the house.
At Perfect Smiles Dentistry, we recommend professional cleanings and biannual exams as early as three years old. We provide specialized services like regular fluoride treatments and tooth sealant treatments to ward off cavities for children five-years-old and above. Our highly skilled dental and professional team is committed to helping your family maintain healthy teeth for their lifetime.
Are you ready to schedule your toddler’s first dental cleaning? Contact Kavitha Gowda, DDS, and our team at Perfect Smiles Dentistry. Book an appointment using our online tool or call today.