Taking a Toddler to the Dentist

Taking a Toddler to the Dentist 7/1/2019

The first year of a child’s life is filled with so many firsts. First smile, first laugh, first food, first tooth … but how about a first dental visit?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children see a dentist by the time their first tooth appears or by their first birthday. It might seem silly to see a dentist for just a couple baby teeth, but tooth decay can start early. And when children have cavities, it can affect their eating habits, speech and overall health. Plus, it’s better for both the parent and child to meet the dentist during a routine exam rather than a dental emergency.

Working in dental benefits, I have the advantage of understanding the importance of the age 1 dental visit. Still, my daughter’s first birthday came and went without a dental appointment on the calendar. When I finally stopped procrastinating, I used Delta Dental’s online Find a Dentist tool to search for an in-network pediatric dentist in our area. Before I knew it, the first appointment was on the calendar.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my curiosity was short-lived as our new hygienist quickly walked us back to an ocean-themed treatment room. As the hygienist let my daughter explore some of the dental tools, she asked me a series of questions—did my daughter have complications at birth, did I breastfeed and were there latching issues, does our daughter use a pacifier and how often, what type of cups does she use, what’s our oral health routine at home, and so on. Quickly, I realized just how many things affected my daughter’s oral health.  

The hygienist then placed a bean bag chair on the head of the dental chair and asked that I lay my daughter down on top. Cue the tears! As I began thinking of ways to defuse the situation, the hygienist, unfazed, began singing to my daughter and gently started the cleaning and exam. Just as she was finishing, the dentist walked in with a cheery voice and radiant smile. With one final look and the next appointment scheduled, we were on our way. 

Even with the tears, my daughter’s first dental visit was a success. She walked out happy with a brand-new toothbrush, and I left with more knowledge about ways to keep her smile healthy.

Will you schedule a first dental visit soon? Here are my tips:

  • Schedule smart. Make the appointment for a time when your child is generally in a better mood, like after a nap or meal.
  • Be positive. Children look at our body language in new situations. Stay calm and provide positive encouragement throughout the appointment.
  • Reward within reason. I’m a fan of high-fives and simple rewards for getting through new experiences. If you’d like to plan a reward after your child’s first visit, consider a small toy or sugar-free treat.
Kate Bartig bio By Kate Bartig
View bio