Books to Take the Bite Out of the First Visits to the Dentist | Milestones

In another round-up in our ongoing Milestones series for toddlers and preschoolers, here are some board books and picture books to help explain some of the processes kids will experience at the dentist’s office, tips on hygiene, and, because laughter is the best medicine, a few books for comic relief.

If adults quake at the thought of big hands, sharp metal objects, and masked intruders leaning in for a closer look at their teeth, imagine being three or four years old and facing dental visits for the very first time. In another round-up in our ongoing Milestones series for toddlers and preschoolers, we’ve found some board books and picture books to help explain some of the processes kids will experience at the dentist’s office, tips on hygiene, and, because laughter is the best medicine, a few books for comic relief. Just for the record, William Steig’s side-splitting, tooth-pulling tickler, Doctor De Soto, is not on the list! And our Milestones round up on the first lost tooth is still in the pipeline and coming soon.

A Black girl with two puffs of hair is brushing her teethDinmont, Kerry. Pearl’s New Tooth: A Book About Caring for Your Teeth. 24p. (My Day Learning Health and Safety). The Child’s World. 2017. ISBN 9781503820227.
PreS–Using a brief word count, color photographs that offer visual cues, and definitions that are clear and easy to understand, this book teaches a simple lesson on tooth care from the perspective of the tooth. It teaches Pearl about brushing, flossing, what it’s like to visit the dentist, and how to avoid cavities. Along with the back matter—further reading, glossary, and helpful websites—caregivers will come away ready to help toddlers manage dental hygiene as part of a daily routine, and to take in stride the first visit to the dentist. A good pick for any collection wanting to fill out the early learning shelves.

Gomi, Taro. The Crocodile and the Dentist. illus. by author. 40p. Chronicle. 2018. ISBN 9781452170282.
PreS-Gr 2–Mirrored dialogue conveys two different points of views in a book that uses a frightened crocodile as the stand-in for a child. The croc does not want to go to the dentist; the dentist doesn’t want the croc for a patient. Gomi leaves readers alone to figure out most of what is going on through body language and facial expressions; this is a book about visiting the dentist but it’s also an elegant piece of SEL ripe for discussion in one-to-one sharing or in group settings. This book will make children forget their fears, side with both protagonists, and feel downright heroic about dental hygiene.

Young Asian girl with a sleek brown bob smiles. A brown dog also seems to smile. The category of the cover is teethGrigsby, Susan. Open Wide: The Ultimate Guide to Teeth. 48p. Seagrass. 2017. ISBN 9781633221239.
K-Gr 3–Packed with facts, photos, and light trivia—snails have teeth!—this is an accessible resource to help parents answer difficult questions on almost everything about animal teeth (wildlife and pets) and human teeth, including what happens at the dentist's office. The difference between “baby” teeth and “adult” teeth is—at last—explained in simple terms perfect for this age group. Grigsby addresses proper hygiene as well as the perfect foods for keeping teeth and bodies strong. Back matter includes bibliography, further reading, glossary, and index. Start here. Grigsby provides more information than children will need, so it’s safe to offer this to any caregiver hoping to make a first visit a smooth one.

King, Mike. Enamel the Camel. illus. by Rick Ellis. 32p. Collective Book Studio. 2022. ISBN 9781951412500.
PreS-Gr 1–Written by a dentist, this book features careful dental hygiene for an entirely different reason than cavity prevention and fighting gum disease. Enamel the Camel has an overbite, which he brushes to a headlight-bright shine, and he can therefore lead his classmates—even the ones who have bullied him for his teeth—safely through a sandstorm. The lesson of kindness, funny illustrations, and earnest wordplay make this a book to tuck into the collection along with more informational volumes on dental hygiene.

Lindee, Mary. A Visit to the Dentist. 32p. (Read & Discover Community Places). Norwood House. 2018. ISBN 9781599539126.
PreS-Gr 2–Supporting emergent reading skills while offering basic information about the dentist, this book is aimed at a slightly older child. While rewarding budding skills (understanding letter combinations, the use of apostrophes, etc.) with well-placed nuggets of information, the text has a fluidity that makes reading a pleasure. A workhorse of a title, this is a two-for-one, helping a child toward literacy while also showing that new reader what to expect at the dentist’s office.

A cartoonish smiling camel proudly shows his protruding teeth. The other camels look on skeptically.MacReady, R. J. Going to the Dentist. 24p. (Healthy Choices). Rosen/Cavendish Square. 2022. ISBN 9781502659729.
K-Gr 2–MacReady, with the perfect last name for prepping young children for the road ahead, uses simple language and plenty of gorgeous full-color photos of office interiors to make that first dentist visit as transparent as possible. The overall attitude is one of whole health behavior, and included is a tidy vocabulary list of words used in the text. Efficient, to the point, and right out of real life, this is a great book for giving children facts, straightforward expectations, and a chance to get used to the words they’ll encounter on that all important first visit.

Schuh, Mari. Diego’s Visit to the Dentist. illus. by Daniela Massironi. 16p. (First Experiences). Jump!/Grasshopper Bks. 2022. ISBN 9781636909240.
PreS-Gr 2–Diego narrates what’s happening to him during his first visit to the dentist. He tells his parent what he’s feeling and gets advice on how to cope. It’s adorable! The book not only offers solid advice for before, during, and after a visit to the dentist, but general information on developing reading skills as well. Diego discovers that there was nothing to be afraid of after all. Back matter includes a review question and picture glossary. A calm presentation and upbeat story provides a reassuring experience and built-in reading practice, too.

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