Thursday, April 11, 2013

tips on taking your toddler to the dentist. olive's first time.

Today Olive went to the dentist for the first time.  Yesterday she was upset that she wasn't going to the dentist yesterday.  Today it snowed... but not nearly as much as we had anticipated.

Olive is less than familiar with things such as medical offices.  She hasn't yet had her two year well child check and her most recent appointment was Feb. 21 2012.  Olive went to the doctor maybe 2-3 times relatively soon after birth but she, of course, doesn't remember those times.

Yesterday I told Olive we were going to the dentist.  I told her that the dentist looks at our teeth and that they might poke her teeth and that she would sit in a really big chair.  I told her that first I would have my appointment, they would look at, clean, and poke my teeth, and that if she wanted to, she could watch.  She seemed ready, showed me her teeth, and tried to poke all of mine.

Olive's first time:

Olive was a little cranky today (she needed a nap, but she didn't take one of course) so I was a little concerned about our plans.  We drove a couple of blocks away to pick up our friend Brooke.  Tyler was supposed to come with to the appointment but with the snow today he wasn't able to get away from work so Brooke came with us instead.  I didn't want Olive to be confined to the exam room and she needed someone around in case she had to go potty.  Thankfully Brooke was willing and able to come with.

We drove a few more minutes and arrived at Mill City Dental in the cute Bryn Mawr neighborhood.  While waiting in the waiting room Olive enjoyed some water and watching saltwater fish on a television.

When it was my turn she joined me in the room and asked a ton of questions - Brooke could hear her from the waiting room.  She continually said "what's this what's this?" about every instrument, tool, and part of the chair.  The hygienist let Olive lower me in the seat and explained in detail everything she was doing.  Olive kept asking to sit on me and was trying to properly place my hands on the armrests of the big chair.  She also kept asking me what I was doing... but I couldn't respond.

After a little while she told me she had to go potty so I told her to run over to Brooke.  They took care of the potty while the hygienist inspected and cleaned my teeth.  The doctor came in and did his thing while Olive and Brooke played with puzzles in the waiting room (I think).

In case you're curious I need to floss a little more and I have one very teeny tiny cavity.  Only my second so I wasn't too disappointed.  Admittedly I've become a little terrible at keep up with my teeth since staying home with Olive - not having a daily routine of leaving the house each morning has screwed me up.

I finished up and met everyone in the waiting room as the room was reset for Olive.

The hygienist soon came out and requested Olive.  Olive ran ahead of us straight into the room that I had been in and climbed into the chair.  She was sitting in it and ready to go.


Olive was offered a pair of sunglasses.  After a lot of thought she picked orange.  The hygienist was impressed at her ability to make a choice and to know her colors so well.  The hygienist was actually really impressed by Olive's communication skills and overall composure.  Kind of timely considering my previous post.



The hygienist talked Olive through each step - she counted her teeth using the little mirror and then counted her teeth using the little poking stick thing.  She has 20 teeth.  Olive opened and closed her mouth on demand.


The hygienist then told Olive she would clean her teeth.  That's right... with the little spinning brush thing and the little pouch of special dentist toothpaste - just like they do with you.  First she cleaned the front of Olive's top teeth, sprayed them with water, and used the suction thing.  Then the back of the top teeth, water, and suction.  The front of the bottom, and so on.


She then flossed Olive's teeth for her.  I was shocked.

After all of this the hygienist found the dentist and told him Olive was ready.  Olive requested that Brooke join the room so I left Olive to get Brooke.  When the dentist arrived Olive was suddenly uncooperative.  He asked Olive if he could see her teeth and she said "nope" after a long pause.  He asked a few times and she eventually pursed her lips in a dramatic tight kiss face.  At one point he asked very nicely and attempted to open her lips with the little mirror but her teeth were clenched.  All while she had no expression on her face whatsoever.  Everyone in the room was laughing.  If you know Olive I assume you can picture this.  No expression... but very determined to be doing what she's doing.

We talked to Olive about how great she did with the hygienist but she still didn't want to open her mouth.  Eventually the dentist let her push some buttons on the chair to tilt it back up.  He showed her how the water and air sprayer worked and let her squirt the floor and he blew air into her hair.  Soon she agreed to show him her nice beautiful clean teeth and opened up wide.  He counted her teeth and put the mirror inside to make sure everything looked good.


Afterwards he congratulated her on a great appointment and told her that she broke the record.  The previous record holder for the youngest fully successful dentist appointment was 2 1/2 years old and was held by his own daughter.  So... good job Olive!  And the hygienist continually mentioned Olive's level of communication and how well behaved she was for a new to being two two year old.  Overall it was a really great time for all of us.  :)

What can you do with your toddler?

The way to prepare yourself and your child for a dentist or any other type of appointment largely depends on your child and your family.  In Olive's case a lot of preparation wasn't needed but it also wouldn't have gone as well as if I had suddenly sprung it on her.  One night of chatting about it coming was enough.  Talking too far in advance would likely bother her because she would want to do it sooner.  But some kids need significant advance.. it's up to them and you can probably tell which kind of kiddo you have.

You can prepare however many days in advance by talking about the dentist, reading a book about the dentist, pretending to play dentist, looking at pictures of a dentist office, etc.  If you need step by step instructions for a more anxious kiddo you can draw up a little instruction sheet or booklet or even go into your office and take photos of everything beforehand - most offices should be perfectly receptive to that.

If needed you can drive by the dentist office or even visit once or twice to try out the really big neat chair.

It's also very helpful to have them witness someone else's appointment.  While Olive did try insisting that she wanted her appointment to be before mine, it was helpful for her to see me have my check up and see that I survived, before having her own.  This could be done immediately before (like ours), earlier in the day, the day before, or a week before - whatever prep you think your child would need best.  But make sure that the person your child is observing is not a squeamish dentist attendee.  The receptionist at our car repair place that we visited this morning told me that she recently scheduled an appointment for her husband and her 3 year old daughter on the same day.  He doesn't like the dentist and whines immensely about the appointments.  If he doesn't step up to the plate and take on the challenge of leading by a great example he may instill a sense of anxiety in his daughter by accident.  Of course that isn't guaranteed to happen but it's more likely than observing a fun and comfortable appointment.

In all aspects of your child's life there are simple things you can do to prepare them - this often lessens stress and anxiety and provides some expectations.  If you don't think your child will be able to tolerate an entire exam make sure you tell them that it's okay.  Most dentist offices don't expect to be able to full examine a toddler's teeth anyhow - the minimum they hope for is to count their teeth and make sure they're in the right places.  If your child can't handle it... make sure you tell them that's okay and remind them that they did a really great job trying.  Encouraging trying is really important and useful for a child's development of self esteem - focusing on the failure or short comings, at such a young age, just isn't useful.

Regardless of how well they do during the appointment, offer some sort of reward if it'll be helpful or needed.  A treat, a trip to the park, even something that you may have done anyways.  Sometimes seeing a light at the end of a tunnel can be great encouragement to work through the uncomfortable things.

So sit down and take a little time to plan out the best approach for your family and any new appointments that may be approaching.  It takes a little extra time to be prepared but if it makes the appointment successful and avoids a meltdown it is certainly worth it.  And if it makes them willing and exciting to go to their next check up then you've really done something right.

Good luck!!

I enjoyed this dentist office.

It's small and located in a renovated residential building in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis.  Depending on who you ask that's the northernmost part of south Minneapolis, the westernmost part of downtown Minneapolis, or the southernmost part of north Minneapolis.  It feels more north to me because it's straight south on Penn from our house - just seven minutes.  And is north of 394.  But whatever.  I don't think you care.

They don't push having your wisdom teeth being removed.  Both Brooke and Tyler are still with wisdom teeth and have been told previously that the teeth must be removed - here they're told it isn't necessary until they cause a problem.  Which makes sense to me.

As Brooke recently discovered, they do not do x-rays of your teeth if you're pregnant and the dentist prefers to put off any major dental work (save for the typical check up and cleaning) until after giving birth.  He said something like why mess around with it if it isn't necessary.  That's cool.

They don't do fluoride treatments unless you request one.

There is a K-Cup machine in the waiting room.  I didn't partake - but that seemed better than hours old burnt coffee.  :)

They gave Olive a tub of Tom's toothpaste (it does have fluoride but the hygienist pointed out that it's dye free) and all of their sinks have a bottle of Mrs. Meyers hand soap next to them.

Also the receptionist is 27 weeks pregnant with twin girls.  I'm not sure that's really important though.

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