My 2 ½ year old welds his mouth shut whenever I try to brush his teeth.
But there he was on a recent morning, jumping into a dentist chair, opening his mouth super wide and obeying the dentist’s every order.
I, at first, contemplated the merits of hiring strangers to rear my children, since my kids clearly obey them more than me. I then realized the rare opportunity to sit in a chair, unburdened, for several minutes. I relaxed while the dentist examined my suddenly obedient child.
Yup, my son’s first trip to the dentist went better than expected. But turns out this visit was 1 ½ years too late.
Do 2-year-olds get cavities?
Dental experts recommend that your little bundle of joy visits the dentist by his or her first birthday.
I was tardy with that first visit! But I’m not alone. Most families bring their child to the dentist when they’re older than 2 years old, according to a survey.
Why trek to the dentist at such a young age? The dentist needs to start checking for problems, such as tooth decay (cavities). You might not think it’s a big deal if those baby teeth suffer from decay, since your child will lose them eventually.
But cavities now might spell trouble later for those permanent chompers.
Since my little guy fights the daily brushing, I was grateful that he was cavity free. In fact, I was shocked to hear that about one in five children ages two to five years old has a cavity!
At the visit, you’ll get tips to help your child maintain healthy teeth. You’ll learn about brushing and the importance of fluoride (one of the secrets to a cavity-free mouth!).
You’ll likely get answers to other questions, such as how to handle things like thumb sucking.
Plus, getting your child used to the dentist chair when they’re young will hopefully set them up for lots of future stress-free visits.
Tips for the first dental visit
If the dentist doesn’t trigger a weird obedience reflex in your kids, that first visit can be a daunting experience. Here are tips for easing into that first visit:
- Schedule an appointment early in the morning when they’re more likely to be calm and willing to listen.
- Ask the dentist’s office what they’ll be doing at the visit so you can explain it to your child. At this age, they may not have tons of words, but we know they understand us!
- Get them psyched for the visit by practicing opening their mouth really wide.
- Reading books or videos about that first visit may also help.
A fellow mom also shared the following ideas:
- Explain that they’re going to a tooth doctor – and we need our teeth to be as healthy as our bodies
- Ask the dentist’s office if your child can sit on your lap. But also let your son or daughter take a ride on the dentist chair (her son loved that!).
- If your dentist doesn’t have a prize bin, consider packing something small as a reward for being a great patient. Nothing big really – a sticker, a race car, a rubber bracelet.
There’s one more big tip that may have also contributed to my son’s successful visit.
My little guy idolizes his big brother. Who did he watch get his teeth cleaned before he jumped into the dentist chair? His big brother.
If your youngster looks up to a sibling, cousin or friend, you might want to consider bringing him or her along on that older child’s next trip to the dentist.