Three-year-old Twins First Visit

I have fraternal twin boys turning 3 at the end of July. I know that they should have their first dental visit soon, but I'm trying to decide how to introduce them to the idea. We've read some books on going to the dentist, but with only one dental chair, I'm struggling with how to keep one from getting nervous while he's watching his brother. (One is much more cautious about life than the other--he's the one I'm concerned about.) Do you have any tips about handling toddlers at the dentist?

Question:

There are several factors which can affect a child's response to a dental visit, especially the first one. Parents have a tremendous influence over their children's attitudes. If a parent is negative or anxious, the child is aware of this and reacts accordingly. On the other hand, a positive attitude by the parent can engender a good attitude in the child. If one child's reaction to the dental visit is more predictable, this can be very helpful for the other child to observe. Maybe your more "adventurous child" should go first. If you are unsure that his responses will be positive, you yourself can act as a role model. Have your children observe you in the chair while the dentist examines your teeth first. Sometimes, if a child is still apprehensive, having the child sit in your lap in the dental chair can be helpful.

The time of day for the appointment and the length of the appointment can be important factors to consider. Usually, young children do well in the morning when they are "fresher." If they have certain eating times or nap times, these should be considered when scheduling. The first appointment may be short. Sometimes during the first appointment, all we accomplish is a ride in the chair and "counting" the teeth (I tell the children I am counting their teeth, but, in reality, I am examining them for any cavities.). If the child is doing well, I may also quickly clean their teeth at this appointment.

Before scheduling an appointment to have your sons' teeth examined, find out what the office policy is regarding having parents in the operatory. Generally, children tend to behave better when the parent is not in the room; however, sometimes during the initial visit, it is more advantageous to have the parent present to provide a sense of security. Also, please keep in mind that it is not unusual for a child to cry at 3 years old or younger. This should not jeopardize future treatments, nor does it irritate the dental team.

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