Two weeks ago was Kaitlyn's first trip to the dentist (16 months old), so I thought it would be a good time to share tips for visiting the dentist.
I normally would have taken Kaitlyn to the dentist for the first time at 12 months, but decided to wait because at 12 months, she only had two teeth. Even now at 16 months, she barely has five.
We go to a pediatric dentist. Our family dentist is a great dentist and I think he would do well with kids, but the fact that a pediatric dentist is required to go to school for three more years after graduating dental school made me decide I prefer the pediatric dentist. The office is fun and the staff is accustomed to working with kids all day long. Also, the pediatric dentist looks at teeth starting at 12 months, and they start real cleanings with real tools somwhere from 2-3 years. The family dentist only has them sit on the chair for the first three years to get them comfortable with it.
One tip I would give for going to the dentist is to know what will happen that first trip and practice accordingly. With Brayden, I really had no idea the first time. He was pretty scared. With Kaitlyn, I knew the procedure and was able to practice with her. She was still scared, but a lot less scared than Brayden was for his first visit.
Another tip is to make the appointment for the best time of day. What time of day is your child most agreeable and happiest. I made the mistake of having the appointment start at 10 AM. I don't know what I was thinking because Kaitlyn's nap starts at 9:45 AM. Luckily she is so easy going it wasn't a big deal. Also, we got there about 20 minutes early and they took us right in.
Another tip is to be compassionate. Your baby up through child doesn't know what is going on. Even Brayden this last visit was scared--and he had done it all before. Tell them you know they are scared but it will be okay, it won't hurt, and you are right there. Hold their hands and talk to them/comfort them. Have them look into your eyes, sing a song...whatever it is that works to ease your child's fears.
Also, call in reinforcements if needed. I had my mom come with me to this visit. In the past, only Brayden has gone and he and I have gone alone. Once Kaitlyn came along, my mom watched her while we went. I thought it best for Kaitlyn's first visit to have an adult for each child, and I am glad we did because they wanted to do both kids at the same time.
I have seen many outbursts at the dentist, but not from my kids. Yes, both cried at their first visit, which really was perfect because then their mouths were open allowing for a quick cleaning and check up. I have seen 4 year olds walk into the dentist and refuse to be seen, so they just weren't. I know parents who wait until their children are 4 or older for the first visit because they know their child wouldn't sit and open their mouths.
At our last visit, Brayden told me he didn't want to have his teeth cleaned. I said, "I know you don't want to, but you need to." He opened his mouth and let them clean. Once they got started, he was fine and thought it was fun (it tickled). It struck me how much easier dentist and doctor visits are for me because my kids are accustomed to being required to do things even if they don't want to. They are accustomed to obeying Mommy, and they trust me to put their well-being first.
So with that in mind, my final tip is to work on obedience at home. You will have a much easier time at the dentist if your child does what he needs to even if it isn't fun and even if he doesn't feel like it at the moment.
Start early and keep your trips regular, and your child will learn that the dentist is not a scary place to be.