1st Trip to the Dentist: An Experiment

I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile.  L&L had their first dental visits a few months ago.  Luke was upwards of 3-1/2 years old and Lilah was a little past just turning 2.

When we told the kids they were going to visit the dentist, they exhibited some apprehension and anxiety, especially Luke.  This is a kid who has screamed and cried through every haircut he’s ever gotten, save the last two — even though his very sweet aunt has always been the one to cut it!  

Let’s just say my hopes were not high for how Dentist Visit Numero Uno, with a bunch of strange, never-before-seen people in a strange, never-before-seen place using a bunch of strange, never-before-seen tools, was going to go.

The Experiment
I thought it would be a good idea to try to prepare L&L for what the dentist would be like, so I went on Amazon and searched for some books. 

After reading reviews, I ended up buying these two:

by Jan and Stan Berenstain


(Dora the Explorer)
by Christine Ricci
Book Reviews

Out of the two books I bought, I’d say the Dora book is the most appropriate for a child’s first dental visit.  In the book, Dora is visiting the dentist to have her teeth cleaned.  

The book basically walks you through Dora’s whole dental visit.  This is what is covered in the book:

  • waiting in the waiting room, 
  • being called by the dental assistant when it’s her turn to go back, 
  • the items in the dentist’s room (i.e. special chair and light), 
  • the purpose and process of taking x-rays, 
  • the dentist and the special tools she uses (mirror, explorer), 
  • the reason for needing to open your mouth wide, 
  • how the dentist cleans the teeth and demonstrates how and when to brush with a toothbrush, 
  • what floss is, what the dentist does with it, and why, 
  • finding a cavity on the x-ray, 
  • filling the cavity (no mention of needles and the picture of the drill is pretty tame), 
  • being a good patient, 
  • getting to pick out a new toothbrush and sticker at the end of the visit, 
  • and now having bright, shiny teeth and wanting to smile!

The Berenstain Bears book, while also very informative, seems to be geared slightly more for older children.  In the story, Sister Bear has a loose tooth, which the dentist pulls, and Brother Bear is going for a routine cleaning, and has to get a cavity filled.  They do show a few more tools than in the Dora book such as a “water squirter for rinsing” and “an air squirter for drying.”  The drill shown in this book (even on the cover) looks very much like a needle.  At the end of the book, Sister Bear gets a dime under her pillow from the tooth fairy.  Although I think this book brings up issues that children going for their first visit don’t necessarily have to worry about yet, L&L both seemed to really like the book and didn’t seem worried about any of the parts that gave me some initial concern.

I will say that one picture in this book almost makes the whole book worth it.  There’s a picture of Brother Bear with his mouth open wide and the dentist is using the mirror tool.  In the mirror, you can see the back side of Brother Bear’s teeth.  I think that one picture really helps to make it clear for little ones to see why they have to open their mouths wide for the dentist and how the dentist is able to see their teeth using the mirror tool.

The results?
I am happy to say that after reading the books a time or two, L&L started asking when we could go to the dentist…not in a worried way, but excitedly.    They were looking FORWARD to going to the dentist!  

They were so excited on the actual day!  They climbed up in the chairs, opened their mouths wide, and did everything that was asked of them.  The dentist even ended up scraping some plaque off of Luke’s teeth (something they said they don’t normally do on the first few visits) because he was doing so well.  L&L got toothpaste, toothbrushes, and flossers to take home.  I have to admit that I’m not the best at always remembering to have them brush at night, but now they always remind me…and we floss a few times a week now, too.

Final Thoughts
To be honest, I was hopeful the books would help, but I am astounded at HOW MUCH they actually did.  I was pretty much expecting kicking and screaming and tears and refusal, and what we got was two happy, smiling kids doing everything they were supposed to.  

So, if you have a first visit coming up…or even if you’ve had a first visit and it didn’t go as smoothly as you would have hoped, try these books!  I know that I personally like to be prepped when I’m going into a new situation, so it’s only logical that kids are similar.  If they know what’s going to happen and what to expect, then it’s less scary for them.  

Good luck!! 🙂

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Meridith says:

    I got the Dora book for my daughter for her first appointment. She was SO EXCITED to go to the dentist and had such a great time there (thanks to a wonderful dental hygienist). For weeks she kept asking when she would get to go back to the dentist! Ha! I might check out the Berenstain book as she gets older. Thanks!

  • Aww man, what an awesome book! Wish I’d seen it before!
    Thanx for this… We’ll definitely get and read this for his next visit.

  • Anonymous says:

    My son Joshua screamed at his first appointment. However, they had a Thomas train table set up and I think half of it was because he was pulled away from it and he was just mad after that. I did read him the Berenstain Bears book but I don’t think it helped much. I bet the Dora book would help more for his next appointment.

  • I think the best thing a parent can do for their child is to lessen the shock of their first time going to the dentist. It’s bad enough that they have to experience pain, but to have to anticipate it beforehand is just torture.

    But yes, having things they like to distract them would help a lot in making the whole experience fun, if not bearable, for your children. 🙂

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