Baby & Toddler

Pre-K

7 Picture Books to Get Kids Ready for the Dentist

by Jennifer Ridgway

Dentist illustration
Illustration: Penelope Dullaghan

To try to prepare my kids for their first trip to the dentist (or “the doctor for their teeth,” as I explained), I turned to books. There are quite a few stories available that help guide young kids through what they may experience when they go, from the waiting room to the exam room to a potential (hopefully not!) cavity. Unlike their pediatricians, who most children see regularly from birth, dentists are a new experience for little ones. Below are some of the books that my family read to prepare for the trip — and loved!

  • Dora Goes to the Doctor/Dora Goes to the Dentist

    by Random House and Robert Roper

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    This two-books-in-one includes what turned out to be my twins’ favorite dentist story, despite their having no familiarity with Dora the Explorer. Dora tells the reader about her trip to the dentist and includes them in the process, asking them to look for things in the illustrations and to do certain things (open wide!) to prepare. She briefly touches on cavities without going into too much detail.

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  • Just Going to the Dentist

    by Mercer Mayer

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    The Little Critter series is a favorite in many homes, and this book is a great way to use a familiar character to introduce a new experience. Mayer’s book follows a very predictable yet informative sequence: The Little Critter goes to the dentist, discovers he has a cavity, and has to get a filling. The book also describes the funny feeling of a numb mouth and (very briefly) mentions braces.

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  • ABC Dentist

    by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Liz Murphy

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    Ziefert’s book was the most in-depth book my family checked out. Every letter of the alphabet represents an aspect of a visit with the dentist (“G is for Gums” and “W is for Wad of Cotton”) and is accompanied by a description. Some of the letters are much more involved than others — for example, the letter T (for “Teeth”) includes descriptions of all the different parts of teeth. This book is better for children with a longer attention span, and perhaps not at bedtime.

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  • What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist

    by Heidi Murkoff, illustrated by Laura Rader

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    The author of the What to Expect When You’re Expecting franchise also has a line of children’s books. Angus, the Answer Dog, is your child’s guide through a trip to the dentist, and he includes a game or idea for every stage of the process. With a lot of text in each two-page spread, Murkoff’s read is longer and more thorough than others we read, especially when explaining cavities and at-home care.

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  • Visiting the Dentist

    by Charlotte Guillain

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    Part of the Growing Up series, this book is set up like a beginning reader book; it includes chapters, a glossary, an index, and two sentences per page in large, clear type. It includes photos of diverse people rather than illustrations, and it covers all aspects of going to the dentist, including tooth decay and cavities (even letting kids know that before getting a filling, they'd receive an injection that might prick).

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  • Vera Goes to the Dentist

    by Vera Rosenberry

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    Even though her sisters have been to the dentist, Vera is going for the first time. Rosenberry’s book is the most narrative of the books we checked out, and that made it my twins’ second-most requested book about dentists. A lot of the story takes place in the waiting room, rather than in the actual exam room — while not as explanatory as some of the other books on this list, Vera Goes to the Dentist is a good complement to them.

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  • Off We Go to the Dentist

    by Avril Webster, illustrated by David Ryley

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    Webster wrote her Off We Go series to help her son, a child with special needs, adjust to new experiences. Each page of this book features an uncluttered illustration and simple text, and it gently touches on potential sensory issues (bright lights, the bib not being too tight). In addition to children with special needs, it is a great choice for younger toddlers and children for whom English is a second language.

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