We can’t stress how necessary your child’s first dental appointment is. It sets their dental foundation for life. Both figuratively and literally. During that first visit, your child not only gets the protection their teeth need from the start. They also get a place they can head to during any signs of dental trouble. Building this foundation isn’t always easy, however. When your toddler’s particularly fussy, sometimes you’ll need a few tips for taking tots to the dentist.
At this age, your child still lacks the cognitive ability to temper or work through their emotions. Because of this, having toddler patients pose a unique challenge for pediatric dentists and parents alike. Not understanding the nuances of toddler behavior can make the appointment more complicated than necessary and hinder any chances of a repeat visit.
Fortunately, the opposite can be said as well. Here are five tips for taking tots to the dentist:
- Bring in an element of participation
Toddlers are at an age where they’ve begun to realize that their body is their own. That they’re their person. Thrilled by this realization, it’s no surprise that they take every chance they get to see what they can do by themselves. It’s no surprise that an interactive approach to their dental visits works well for them. While at the dental office, encourage them to explore the little knick-knacks on the shelves. Pediatric dentists can also let their younger patients look at the tools and explain what they do in a positive fashion.
- Monkey see monkey do
Aside from wanting to do things themselves, children at this age also want to learn more about the world around them. It’s why they want to play with the same toys other children play or do what others do. Take advantage of this by letting them in on your dental appointments. Or at least, the child-friendly ones. When you’re out for your scheduled prophylaxis, for instance, you can bring your kids and partner for a supervised visit so they can see what happens during a visit. Chances are, they might want to have their appointment too.
- Engage your toddler’s imagination
A toddler’s thought process tends to delve on the fantastical. They tend to combine what is real and imaginary. They ascribe attributes to objects that do not have them. Or believe things will happen because they’ve thought them. Engaging your toddler’s imagination during the visit, then, could spell the difference between a scary dentist visit and a trip to wonderland.
- Let your child bring along their “focus objects”
In a strange, new world they’re only beginning to understand, toddlers often grasp for a sense of control to know what they’re going through. It’s why they often become attached to things, like a security blanket or a favorite stuffed toy. Having a “focus object” during a visit could then help ease the jitters out of extremely nervous toddlers and calm them during the check-up itself.
- Don’t let them wait on it
Finally, toddlers don’t have a sense of time passing. If you tell them to wait on something, expect a big fuss until the event arrives and a grumpy tot on the day itself. Save yourself the frustration and tell them about the visit on the day itself.