As parents, the feeling of watching your child do something for the first time is wonderful. It’s a mix of pride, awe, and exhilaration. It’s a balance between being present in the moment and making sure you get it on video and into your baby books so you can share the excitement with family and review it repeatedly as the year’s pass.
Parenting is full of exciting firsts for you and your child. Their first bath, smile, giggle, food, tooth, steps, word. Each first is monumental. The feeling of pride is shared between parent and child, each embarking on a new journey.
But sometimes new experiences and places can cause anxiety for children, like their first dental appointment. Pediatric Dental Specialists recommends your child visit us by the time they get their first tooth, or by their first birthday, whichever comes first. Visiting the dentist early can help to make it a normal event and something that isn’t so scary as they get older and more aware. We partner with parents to make sure each appointment is a great experience for your child to make sure they feel comfortable and safe. We accommodate all special needs.
You can prepare your child for their dental visit by talking about it early. Talk to your child about what you will do and what the experience will be like. Demonstrate good oral hygiene habits so routine brushing is part of their daily life. When they see you doing something, they’ll follow along, as long as it seems fun, so don’t hold back on singing, dancing, acting silly—whatever needs to be done. Reading books about brushing teeth and going to the dentist is another excellent way to prepare your child.
Studies show that reading to kids helps them learn about the world around them and build social and emotional skills. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud to children every day, beginning at birth, to promote stronger parent-child relationships and improve language and literacy skills. Reading stimulates the part of the brain that’s associated with imagery, comprehension, and word meaning. So basically, reading aloud to your kids can promote bonding, encourage speaking skills, ability to remember things, and foster confidence in your kids. There are so many great children’s books available that teach valuable lessons to the growing mind. If you want to help your child learn about something in particular like potty training, weaning off the pacifier, or going to the dentist, you should read books to them about the topic.
Pediatric Dental Specialists agrees with the AAP’s recommendations about reading, and we think reading books about going to the dentist is a wonderful idea (wink wink)! Reading to your child about going to the dentist and taking care of teeth will help them prepare for their visit, reduce any anxiety they may have about an unfamiliar situation, and boost confidence. We know each child has different needs, and some may still feel more anxious at the time of the visit. That’s why our team is specially trained to help your child, and you, feel comfortable. Our highly skilled team will find the best way to help your child through their dental treatment. Some procedures may recommend nitrous oxide or other sedation to help them relax, and we will let you know if your presence is needed during treatment. We work with each child and family on an individual basis, based on the child’s needs, and we will discuss this with you prior to the treatment.
We do recommend talking to your child about their dental visit in a fun and exciting manner prior to the date. You could talk to them about the fun games in the reception area and show them pictures online so they become familiar with the setting. In addition, reading books to your child about going to the dentist and brushing teeth will be very helpful.
Here are some of our favorite books that we recommend to parents, and kids love them, too!
- Brush, Brush, Brush! The title of this book sums up the contents, and we think this book is excellent for teaching babies and toddlers about brushing their teeth. Since we recommend your child’s first dental visit be by their first birthday and they begin regular brushing then, this is one of the most perfect books to reinforce that behavior.
- The Tooth Book. This Dr. Seuss classic teaches kids all about teeth and why it’s important to take care of them.
- Brush Your Teeth, Please. A fun pop-up book with entertaining animal characters demonstrating good brushing and flossing habits. This will surely be a family favorite!
- Ready, set, brush! Your child’s favorite Sesame Street characters take them on a pop-up adventure all about brushing teeth and visiting the dentist!
- Sugar Bug Doug: All about cavities, plaque, and teeth. As your toddler enters the official ‘kid’ phase, this book teaches them how to stop sugar bugs from causing cavities by maintaining good oral hygiene. It’s great for ages 4-7, which is in the age range when kids can begin to brush on their own.
- The Tooth Book: A guide to healthy teeth and gums. This is a great choice for your elementary age child who is ready to learn all these things! It’s filled with illustrations of the dentist office and fun facts about dentistry and teeth.
- Going To The Dentist. This is the ultimate dental visit prep book filled with easy to understand explanations and bright illustrations.
- Pony Brushes His Teeth. In this book, Pony learns to brush his teeth by watching his dad model the behavior. A great read for kids and parents alike to reinforce what you’re teaching your kids at home.
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist. A classic book shows the whole family going to the dentist and is a great introduction to the Tooth Fairy. Perfect for all ages and particularly the older kids who might be getting a visit from the Tooth Fairy very soon!
- Brush Your Teeth, Max and Millie. A cute book with tooth brushing tutorials and discussion about why brushing is so important. A winner in our books!
If you have any questions about your child’s first dental visit, contact us and we’ll happily talk you through it.
The birth of a child means a series of ongoing transitions for everyone in the family. There are transitions in titles and roles, becoming a mother or father, sister or brother or even grandparent. These types of transitions are monumental and from now on there will be a series of major milestones. Rolling over, crawling, walking, running . . . brushing teeth! Throughout these exciting changes, you watch in awe as your cuddly baby grows into a strong and brave kid. And through every milestone, Pediatric Dental Specialists is here to make sure your child has a happy, healthy smile.
One of the first exciting milestones is that first tooth (or multiple teeth coming in at once—yes, we understand your teething struggles). In your new role as a parent, it’s your job to make sure your child develops good habits to care for themselves. We know this isn’t always an easy job. In fact, getting your kid to happily go along with routine hygiene activities like brushing teeth can feel like, well, pulling teeth. Sometimes it can seem like each new milestone or transition brings new struggles. We want to make oral health care less of a struggle for you and your kids. Here are some tips to help your children learn to love brushing their teeth (and make your life easier).
You can begin teaching your child about oral healthcare even before they’re old enough to brush. After each feeding, clean your infant’s gums by wiping a wet washcloth over their gums and gently massaging their gum tissue. This will wipe away any remaining sugars from milk and prevent decay. Massaging can help stimulate circulation and reduce teething pain. It’s especially important for your child to get used to the process of cleaning teeth and gums early. Once a tooth erupts, you can begin using a soft bristle toothbrush without toothpaste to brush the tooth.
We recommend cleaning your infant’s gums with a wet washcloth before bedtime. Also, do not give your baby milk after brushing. This is to avoid bottle rot, a disease caused by prolonged exposure to drinks that contain sugar, even milk. So whether your baby is formula fed, breastfed, or drinking cows’ milk, we recommend washing their mouth with water to prevent decay. When your baby is very young and requires frequent feedings, gently wiping her gums with water is a good habit to develop.
We recommend you take your child to their first dental visit by the time they are one year old or when they get their first tooth. In the meantime, here are some tips for baby wellness as well as some commonly asked questions.
Model the Behavior
Children learn by watching everyone around them, primarily the parents. The first time you realize your kid is talking or acting in the exact way you just did is kind of mind-blowing. But don’t feel intimidated; it just shows you have the power to help them shape good behaviors, like brushing their teeth!
Since kids are like sponges and absorb everything around them, show good oral hygiene habits while they’re watching. Keep a toothbrush in the bathroom for both you and your child. When it’s time to brush their teeth, you role play and brush your teeth, too. If they see you happily brushing, they’re much more likely to follow your example.
You can even take turns brushing each other’s teeth. Or demonstrate how to do it and then tell them to do the same thing. The more your child sees you doing the behavior you are requesting of them, the more they will want to do it. Remember, you’re the role model!
Make It Routine
Every family has a routine based on their schedules and what works for them. Routines help influence social, emotional, and cognitive development, as well as giving children a sense of security and stability. Use your routines during meal time, clean up, chores, and brushing teeth as teachable moments. Everything you do can be a learning experience. And the more you do it, the more it becomes routine and just part of what you do every day. This can help eliminate some push back if you develop tooth brushing as part of the routine early on.
Make It Exciting
We don’t expect your kid to get as excited about brushing their teeth as they do about going to the park or science museum, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun! Find some songs about brushing your teeth that they enjoy and will want to act out. Check out these songs recommended by The American Dental Association. What better way to encourage your kid to brush than seeing some of their favorite characters do the same thing? When it’s time to brush, tell your kid that now is the time of day we brush our teeth and start singing your brushing song. Head to the bathroom while dancing and singing, get the toothbrush and paste out, and begin your super-fun daily routine. Use a timer as a way to show it’s time to brush your teeth and let them see the countdown. When you’re done, let them know they did a great job!
Give Them Choices
Once your child enters the toddler stage, they begin to express more independence. Studies show that you can encourage them to develop ownership by providing choices. It can help with cooperation and make them feel like they are in control. You can let your kid have ownership over their choices by providing two options for things that are part of their routine. For example, let them decide between the red shirt and green shirt, apples or oranges for lunch, pink cup or blue cup, this book or that book, purple or yellow toothbrush. You get the idea. You still get them to do what you want, and they choose the way it’s done. It’s a win-win. Harness their behavioral development to teach them about self-care while encouraging independence.
Keep Your Cool
It doesn’t need to be perfect. Letting your kid learn on their own can be frustrating sometimes. Because it would just get done faster if you did it, right? Well, yes, but the whole purpose of this learning stage is to teach your kid to be an independent human—at least for basic functions like feeding, hygiene, and going to the bathroom—it’s not time to move out just yet! Make sure you demonstrate how to brush and the steps that are involved: put toothpaste on the toothbrush, move the toothbrush around to brush all of the teeth and tongue, and rinse the brush to wash off the toothpaste. Sure, they won’t get every nook and cranny and will probably make a mess, but just keep your cool and let them learn. If you get frustrated and upset, it will discourage them from doing it. Keep it positive and fun. Remember, you want this to be part of your regular daily routine. If your kid refuses to use toothpaste, continue to encourage it, but don’t make it a huge issue that leads to a meltdown. Getting them used to brushing is the most important thing right now.
Incorporate Brushing Into Playtime
Children learn through play, so you can teach them about brushing by incorporating it into playtime. Find a spare toothbrush to keep lying around for playtime. Encourage your kid to brush their stuffed animal’s teeth, baby doll’s teeth, even bath toys’ teeth. Read books about teeth and oral hygiene. Role play and let your kid brush your teeth. Pretend to be a dentist and talk about brushing teeth. The more they see the behavior modeled in everyday life, the more they will want to do it. Brushing teeth is pretty cool anyway!
Establishing healthy dental habits early in life is so important for a lifetime of healthy, happy smiles. At Pediatric Dental Specialists, we partner with parents to provide optimal oral health. You are an important factor in your child’s oral health, and we want to support you and your family in creating good habits. You can find great resources on our website and TV interviews, or contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss questions or concerns you may have.