The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children see the dentist once their first tooth appears, which should be before their first birthday. Though it may seem silly to get a single tooth cleaned, it’s very important for your child’s dental health.
Don’t bring your child to just any dentist. Sometimes even the dentist you’ve been seeing for years doesn’t have the experience needed to see children.
Pediatric dentists receive special training specifically for treating children — which is an extra two years of schooling.
They’re also more adept at handling children’s emotional issues, especially as it comes to nervousness and fear. This kind of experience is essential to making the visit as smooth as possible.
There are some things you can do to prepare your child for their first dental visit. From scheduling to singing songs, you can help your child have a positive first experience.
Make sure your child understands how going to the dentist is a good thing, and it doesn’t have to be scary. Smile and demonstrate enthusiasm when you discuss it with your child. Your child takes a lot of cues about how to feel from your expressions.
Be Smart About Scheduling
When you make your child’s first dentist appointment, think about everything else going on that day. Try to find a time when both you and your child are well-rested and fed.
Avoid triggers for tantrums. If you schedule the appointment during naptime, that could lead to a meltdown.
Consider your own schedule, too. Working parents should allow themselves plenty of time, and it might be a good idea to take at least half of the day off from work.
Allow Yourself Plenty of Time
Just as you have to schedule a good time, you should also plan to leave early to go to the dentist’s office. Be prepared for unexpected circumstances: a finger slammed in the door, last-minute hesitations, accidents or spills.
These situations can put you behind schedule, and if you’re too late, your dentist might not be able to see you. Imagine the first impression your child will get after you are both turned away!
Discuss It With Your Child
Read books and sing songs that talk about the dentist in a positive light. You could even introduce your child to the tooth fairy.
Buy toys that are associated with the dentist and engage in pretend play, talking about what happens during a dentist appointment and how important it is for healthy and strong teeth.
As much as it’s important to talk to your child, it’s also important to listen to them (if they can speak). And though they might not have all the words, try to hear what they’re really expressing. Then you can address those fears directly.
Turn your dentist appointment into a fun outing with your child. Allow them to come to your dentist appointment with you, and treat yourselves to lunch or a picnic at the park afterwards. This will associate positivity and happy memories with a trip to the dentist.
Make that ritual something you and your child can enjoy, and when it’s their turn, they’ll have a better idea of what to expect. They might even look forward to going to the dentist!
Lead by Example
Good oral care habits don’t end with going to the dentist. When you’re at home, get your child involved in your dental hygiene routine.
Practice brushing together. Let your child set the timer for brushing, and make oral hygiene a fun activity the whole family practices together at home.
Prepare Your Questions
During your child’s first dentist appointment, we encourage parents to ask as many questions as they like. Creating a list in preparation will help you make sure you don’t forget any important questions or concerns you have.
What to Expect During Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment
Your child’s first dentist visit isn’t the same kind of check-up you’re used to. This first visit can help your child get used to the idea of going to the dentist — and educate you further on how to ensure your child’s dental health for years to come.
Your child’s dentist will typically evaluate their oral health through an examination of the mouth and an assessment of their health, including their development and health history.
Be prepared to answer questions about thumb-sucking or pacifiers, your child’s diet, and at-home dental hygiene habits. They’ll typically wipe the gums and tooth (or teeth) clean.
Your dentist will also offer important information and tips for how you can help your child practice good oral hygiene.
It’s important to begin healthy dental habits at an early age and to always maintain a two-way conversation about it with your child.
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