Toddler dentistry without tears?

Has anyone had a great experience taking a toddler to the dentist in Berkeley or Oakland? After reading reviews of pediatric dentists, I allowed myself to hope that their tricks and techniques could usher even the littlest ones through without tears. But we had our first appointment (at 14 months) and it didn’t live up to that high bar—the people and setup were very nice (toys to play with while waiting, etc.), but when it came to the exam they just said it was normal for him to cry. Looking ahead to a visit at 20 months, I’d love to know: do any of the Berkeley/Oakland pediatric practices have the secret sauce for a happy toddler visit? Or is that simply an unrealistic goal at this age?
If you know of a practice with great techniques for making toddlers think brushing is important or fun, that would be great to know also!

Parent Replies

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We had 14 years of great success with Dr. Matsuishi on Stockton Street, and continued to have great care in a soothing environment with Dr. Ching, his successor.  Their office used to give tours to nursery school kids, to help them feel comfortable in the office.  They would let you schedule a pre-visit to reduce anxiety.  

My daughter had her first appointment at 19 months, thought it was great and has loved going to the dentist ever since. She sees Dr. Nakazato at Aloha Pediatric Dentistry, although that first visit was with Dr. Wampler (who I think has since retired). She saw Dr. Khosrovani there once when she was 5 and had a dental emergency. All three of them have been great.

Dr. Vivian Lopez and assistants are great. I wouldn't say we achieved zero tears with every procedure, but I always felt the staff was even more patient and definitely more wise than I was. My preteen kids are still totally comfotable with going there despite some fillings, a retainer, one extraction, and a spacer. So they must be doing something right! With a 14 month old it sounds like it should be just cleanings and inspections though, so shouldn't be too many tears. Then again, I'm not sure I brought my kids to the dentist that young.

I second the rec for Aloha Dental in Berkeley, both my kids have been patients there for years and we've had great experiences with all the staff. However, my youngest son absolutely refused to let the dentist do anything in his mouth until he was 5! The staff at Aloha were very helpful and understanding and basically told me that it's O.K. They emphasized good oral care at home and suggested we try again when he was a little older. Then magically at age 5 a switch flipped and he was ready.  For toddlers visiting the dentist is really about getting them used to the whole experience, not so much about cleaning and polishing teeth. I'd say don't push it if he's really upset, you can probably hold off on seeing the dentist twice a year for a little while.

Why not wait until he's older? I know the pediatric dentists say kids must be seen at age 1 year, but I think that's a lot of hooey. Work with him at home with a fun toothbrush and kid toothpaste and then try a dentist when he's three or so. Whatever you do, don't force it now, or else you'll always have a kid who hates the dentist.