An image of a dentist in a dental office helping children with their teeth with a list of 8 ways to help toddlers with the dentist.

8 Ways to get your toddler ready for the dentist

This is a post we’ve been keeping in reserve for a long time because life got in the way! We decided that now is a good time to post this because our family has been going through a series of dental visits (yay!).

We really wanted to share a few things that might help get your toddler ready for the dentist. This can be excruciatingly irritating and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be.

This post is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the ways to keep your kid from going crazy at the dentist. Oh no! But if you like this and you want more ways than we share here, please let us know and we would love to share more.

8 May 2021

Last week, we took our 20-month-old little girl to the dentist. (Does anyone know when you should stop counting your child’s age in months? It feels so awkward to me after 18 months!)

And guess what! It went shockingly well!

Why was it shocking, you ask? Because the first time we took her to the dentist when she was a very adorable 1-year-old, she HATED it! Like screamed hysterically and kind of hated it.

Like I felt like I was traumatizing her. Like I wondered if she would have nightmares about the experience into adulthood kind of hated it.

And you took her back, you ask? Yes, yes, we did. Because I’ve had at least nine fillings since my hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy with her, but that’s another story for another day (check it out with the link above).

Just know that extra throwing up during pregnancy means extra tooth damage, which means extra tooth pain. So I’m feeling particularly adamant about setting my little toddler up for success in the dental arena.

As her six-month checkup approached, I started to wonder how she would handle this appointment. I was totally prepared for another traumatizing fit of screaming and tears.

But I also really hoped that wouldn’t happen again, wanting my daughter to have a positive opinion of those wonderful people who help us prevent and get rid of tooth pain. Have I mentioned how much I hate having my mouth hurt? I really despise it actually.

So in an effort to help my toddler love her dentist, I did the natural thing. I started talking him up. I told her in the happiest, most excited tone I could manage that she was going to the dentist! I told her all about how amazing the dentist was for several days before her appointment.

“Your dentist is so nice!” I said.

“You are such a lucky girl to get to go to the dentist!” I said.

“You will have such a good time at the dentist!” I said.

On the day of her appointment, I described her exam in detail for her. Our pediatric dentist does lap exams at this age.

So Mommy or Daddy gets to hold the cute toddler. We lean her back onto the dentist’s knees, and he brushes and checks her teeth. So I told her all about how we would be right there and that the really super extra nice dentist would brush her teeth.

When we were getting her shoes on to go to the appointment, I repeated all of this. And again when we were getting in the car. And again when we got to the dentist’s office. Our dentist is a really, really, really nice guy, I promise.

So we went inside, checked in with the receptionist, and—didn’t play with the waiting room toys. I know, I know, that’s what they’re there for. They’re supposed to help your kid relax before their exam, right?

Nope, not my toddler. I knew if we let her play with those brand new, never before seen toys, we’d have a screaming, kicking toddler on our hands when her name was called to go back for the exam.

So what did we do instead? We stood at the big window in the waiting area and looked outside while we talked again about—can you guess?—yes, how nice our dentist is! 

We talked him up and reminded our toddler again that she was going to get her teeth brushed. We told her what a big girl she was for coming to the dentist and being so brave!

And it worked. It really worked.

We went back to the exam room. Our girl looked around in fascination for a few minutes at all the cool equipment and pictures on the walls. The dentist came in, and she didn’t immediately burst into tears as I was expecting. Win #1

Daddy held her during this exam, and she didn’t scream when he laid her back on the dentist’s knees! Win #2!

She held her favorite stuffed animal, which happens to be Magenta from Blue’s Clues. She fell in love with her at the store one day before she ever saw her first episode of the show.

Win #3 was that she didn’t throw Magenta on the floor even once! She often throws things when she wants to get down. She’s like, “Oh no, Mama, my toy is all the way down there on the floor. I’d better get down and get it. I mean, we can’t just leave it there.”

Win #4 was that our toddler let the dentist brush and brush and brush her little teeth (She had 15 at the time. 16 now. One of her canines came in this week.) And she didn’t even bite him once! 

Also, this might seem kind of strange. Judge us if you must. But when we brush her teeth at home, we make this noise kind of like “Shook-a-shook-a-shook-a-shook-a!”

So we did that the whole time the dentist was brushing her teeth. He told us we sounded like a train, haha. But really though, try doing things that you normally do during your teeth-brushing routine. It might help.

Win #5 was when Brielle didn’t totally freak out, make a break for it, or spit all over the floor when the dentist gave her a fluoride treatment. At this point, we, the dentist included, were all telling her how brave she was being and what a big girl she was! Basically, my toddler is a champion dentist patient.

And she was thrilled because the hygienist let her choose a toy ball to take home. Balls are one of our girl’s favorite things right now. (Is anyone else hearing that song from Sound of Music in their head now!) “Ball” was one of her first words, so I think she’d count that as Win #6.

So if you’re getting your toddler ready for the dentist soon, try:

  1. talking up the dentist
  2. describing the exam
  3. possibly limiting access to waiting room toys (You know if this will help your kid or not.)
  4. letting them bring a favorite toy or blanket to hold
  5. holding them or their hand during the exam
  6. replicating parts of your normal teeth-brushing routine
  7. telling them how brave they are being during the exam
  8. giving them a favorite reward afterward

It also helps if you have a really, really, really nice dentist as we do!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *