Open Wide: How to Prepare Your Toddler For Their First Dentist Appointment

Your child is headed to the dentist? Start here first.

In the United States, 58 percent of the population went to the dentist in 2017. Up to 8 percent of adults avoid going to the dentist out of fear and as many as one in five people have dentist anxiety.

But the real question is, how do you make sure your child is unafraid of the dentist?

For parents looking for how to prepare their toddler for their first dentist appointment, check out this helpful guide.

Read on to learn more.

Consider an Early Orthodontic Exam

Get ahead of the game and consider an early orthodontic exam before the dentist. This can help prepare you and your child for potential dental issues before their first teeth fall out.

A trained medical professional can help identify and anticipate problems such as:

  • Misaligned bite
  • Adult tooth extraction
  • Tooth trauma

Make the visit early on to avoid more serious dental issues in the future. 

Be Honest with Your Child

Before you head to the dentist for children, avoid sharing too many details. Keep it simple to steer clear of unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Try to keep a positive attitude when talking to your child about the dentist for kids but be honest about the process. Avoid false promises like:

  • It won’t hurt
  • You’ll only have to go once
  • It’ll just take a few minutes

This can cause your child to lose both trust in you and the dentist. 

Avoid relating your dentist visit to your child’s experience or taking your child to your dentist appointment. Adult dentist offices often look and feel much different than kid-friendly offices and may give the wrong impression to your child.

Be Mindful of Your Words

Many children dentists have specific vocabulary they’ll introduce to the kids to make the process less scary. Be mindful of your words prior, during, and after the visit. Avoid using terms like:

  • Shot
  • Pain
  • Numb

Instead, use positive words like healthy, clean, and strong teeth.

Try a Pretend Visit

Give a pretend visit right at home a go. Consider incorporating it into your child’s playtime. Take turns having both you and your child be both the patient and the dentist.

Try counting each other’s teeth together starting with the letter ‘A’ or the number ‘1’. Use your child’s favorite doll or stuffed animal and practice cleaning their teeth with a real toothbrush. 

Do not make loud noises that represent the dental equipment. 

Consider reading a picture book with your child about the dentist to give them more exposure to the experience. Try books like:

  • Dora Goes to the Dentist by Robert Roper
  • Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer
  • ABC Dentist by Harriet Ziefert
  • What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist by Heidi Murkoff

Try to have lots of family members ready stories like these to create a supportive environment.

Dentist Appointment

Not many people enjoy going to the dentist, no matter your age. Know how to ease the anxiety around your little one’s first dentist appointment and be prepared for the big day.

What are you waiting for? The dentist awaits!

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