New parents rejoice in celebrating so many first milestones with their baby. First steps, first words, first face plant into a birthday cake. One “first” that many parents fear is their toddler’s first visit to the pediatric dentist.
While you may feel apprehensive about this appointment, arming yourself with key information on how to prepare for this first dental visit will help calm frazzled nerves—both yours and baby’s!
Choose the right pediatric dentist
Before you can even think of scheduling, be sure that you choose the right pediatric dentist for your baby. While your own family dentist might be able to treat babies, he may not have any specialized training in pediatric dentistry.
Yes. There really is a difference.
Dentists who specialize in pediatrics have specialized training to ensure that they fully understand working with a toddler’s tiny mouth. In addition, they have a special way of connecting with babies and parents to put everyone at ease. Of course, this makes the process much easier for all involved.
Introduce your child to the toothbrush
If you haven’t begun brushing your child’s teeth already, be sure to start asap. Your child will be less apt to balk at the invasion into his mouth if he’s used to brushing his teeth. If your toddler wants to try to brush his own teeth with your assistance, encourage that curiosity and allow him to try it.
Even before he has teeth, your child benefits from brushing. Additionally, the earlier the child is accustomed to good oral hygiene habits, the better chances of him continuing to practice good oral hygiene throughout his lifetime.
Prepare a medication list
If your baby is on any medication, including vitamins or herbal supplements, prepare that list and take it with you. It’s vital that the pediatric dentist is aware of any medicines in case a prescription is needed. While that’s unlikely, it sometimes happens.
In addition, it’s important that the dentist is aware of medications because some can cause dental side effects such as inflammation, tenderness, or bleeding of the gums. This can assist the pediatric dentist in differentiating real potential problems from side effects from those medications.
Have a list of questions prepared
Before you step into the pediatric dental office for that crucial first visit, it helps to have a list of questions prepared. This will allow you to have the questions addressed while the dentist is in the exam room…not forgetting to ask them only after you’ve arrived home from the appointment!
Keep a list of questions in your smartphone. As you think of new questions, add them to the list. The best pediatric dentists don’t mind questions. They welcome them and appreciate parents who are attentive to their baby’s oral health.
Talk to your toddler
Talk to your toddler about what’s going to happen in a positive and upbeat manner. Let him know that the dentist is going to check his teeth to make sure they are healthy and will also brush his teeth. Children that age understand much of what you are saying, and they will certainly understand the positive and reassuring tone of voice when you’re explaining the appointment. Reassurance that the appointment might be scary, but it won’t hurt is important to your toddler.
The first time your toddler visits the pediatric dentist might be a little overwhelming to both you and your child. Like all doctor appointments, they become routine over time and a natural part of a lifetime of wellness.
About the Author
Dr. Holly Gregory, DDS, MS is a pediatric dentist in Humble, Texas. The Texas native is a mom who truly understands firsthand the challenge of that first trip to the dentist!