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Visiting the dentist is not just scary for squirmy toddlers or kids – it is often quite scary for adults too! In fact, more than one-third of people nationwide report feeling fearful of going to the dentist. But you don’t want your toddler growing up feeling fearful of the dentist’s chair! The best way to make sure this never happens is to take your toddler to the right pediatric dentist who knows just how to handle squirmy/fidgety toddlers and ease their fears.
What Is In a Pediatric Dentist’s Toolkit?
The best pediatric dentists have a wide array of professional tools at their disposal to introduce your toddler to dentist visits. For a truly professional pediatric dentist, helping your toddler feel at ease, comfortable and confident is as important as providing cutting-edge dental care!
This is because when your toddler has a great early experience at the dentist, they will be much more likely to grow up to seek preventative dental care. This, in turn, will contribute to a lower risk of cavities, periodontal disease and other serious systemic infections that often begin with poor oral hygiene.
Expect to see the following in your pediatric dentist’s professional toolkit:
- Finger puppets.
- Stuffed animals.
- Video games.
- Oversize models for demonstrations.
- Kids books.
Each of these tools can help your toddler to understand why the dentist wants to do basic things like examine their mouth, take x-rays, clean their teeth and floss. Using finger puppets, cartoon characters, games and toys can help make visiting the dentist less fearful and (dare we say it) even fun and giggle-worthy!
There’s so much more…
What Can Parents Do to Prepare Toddler’s to Visit the Dentist?
As a parent, you are your toddler’s first and most valued mentor and role model. Your toddler looks to you for direction in all areas of life (whether it seems that way or not.) This can become problematic if you suffer from a fear of dentists or are going through some uncomfortable dental treatments of your own!
Even though it can be so tempting to discuss your experiences with a friend or partner within earshot of your toddler, it is important not to do this. Your toddler will pick up on your fear and may develop a fear of their own as a result. Instead, scheduling the first dentist visit can be an opportunity to ease your own fears while preparing your toddler to have the most positive experience.
Here are some tips to help your toddler get ready:
- Watch the words you use – avoid any statements that combine words like “fear” or “pain” with the word “dentist.”
- Turn your daily brushing routine into a game that you and your toddler can do together. Sing, dance, recite rhymes – whatever works to make oral health seem fun.
- Start brushing and flossing as early as you possibly can – you can use finger cots are baby toothbrushes as early as when that first tooth comes in to get your toddler used to the process.
- Act out your toddler’s first visit to the dentist together. First, you play the dentist. Then switch and let your toddler play the dentist.
- Treat the visit as just another ordinary day – don’t promise treats or rewards or anything that might suggest going to the dentist is potentially scary.
- Take your toddler for a “meet and greet” before the day of their actual appointment. This is just a time to see the office, play with some toys with the other kids there, meet the dental team and have fun.
For more great tips to help your toddler to prepare for their first pediatric dentist appointment, check out these 10 helpful hacks for first-time pediatric patients.
How Do Dentists Handle Fidgety/Squirmy Toddlers?
Regardless of how well you prepare your squirmy toddler for their first visit to the pediatric dentist, there may come a moment in the first appointment when your toddler’s squirmy/fidgety “inner toddler” comes out. This is totally normal! It is a sign that your toddler is scared, feels uncomfortable or nervous or just needs a minute to reassess the situation.
Choosing a pediatric dentist gives you the assurance that your toddler’s dentist is trained in how to handle scared, squirming toddlers, kids, and tweens. Follow their lead and be supportive of anything your dentist suggests to calm your toddler’s fears.
Your pediatric dentist knows how important it is to treat your toddler with respect and build trust. When you pick the right pediatric dentist, they will always take the time to explain to your toddler what is going to happen in age-appropriate language and using toys, puppets, models, and figures to pantomime everything that will take place.
If your toddler has questions, your pediatric dentist will stop and calmly answer them so that your toddler feels comfortable with proceeding. Allowing your toddler to examine and handle the dental equipment and tools is another great way to redirect fearfulness to curiosity and interest in learning more.
A gifted pediatric dentist will be happy to do a dental exam on your toddler’s favorite toy, doll or stuffed animal or on you, their parent, so your toddler can see there is nothing to be afraid of.
Dr. Adam Schulhof, D.M.D., and Dr. Darryl Engel, D.M.D., are the co-founders and co-medical directors for KinderSmiles, a unique center for pediatric dentistry and orthodontics. KinderSmiles is founded on the dream of providing every single patient with cutting-edge, caring dental and orthodontic care starting as early as possible.
The KinderSmiles team recognizes that a squirmy toddler has dental and orthodontic needs, different than the needs of older patients. The right treatment provided at the right moment in a toddler’s development can change the course of their oral health for the better forever.
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400 Kinderkamack Rd.
Oradell, NJ 07649
How do Dentists Handle? (a Squirmy Toddler)
Dr Engel holds a speciality license in pediatric dentistry from New Jersey and New York. He also has attained sedation certification, which allows for in-office oral sedation options, and he’s on staff at Hackensack University Medical Center. As an attending pediatric dentist at HUMC, Dr Engel retains operating room privileges, allowing for an array of treatment modalities and anaesthesia options.