As a parent, you get to experience many firsts with your child, from first steps and first words to their first day of school and first family holiday. Another important milestone for your child is their first dental visit.
Scheduling your child’s first dental appointment is an important part of establishing good oral hygiene habits.
The American Association of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) recommends that you take your child for their first dental visit no later than six months after their first tooth erupts or at 12 months old if no teeth have emerged yet.
What to Expect at My Child’s First Dental Visit
At the first dental visit, your child’s hygienist will examine their teeth, gums, jaw, and bite to check their development. The hygienist may also perform a gentle cleaning, including removing plaque and tartar from the teeth.
They may also check for the presence of a tongue or lip tie or any injuries to the soft tissue that could impact their speech or eating. The full exam only takes a few minutes.
After their exam, your dentist may discuss preventative care, such as which toothbrush and toothpaste to use, brushing and flossing techniques, and maintaining a tooth-friendly diet. This is also a good time to ask questions about pacifier use or thumb-sucking and learn effective methods to alleviate teething discomfort.
How to Prepare Your Child For Their First Dental Visit
Children can feel anxious when confronted with new or unfamiliar places. You can reduce any anxiety they might have about their first visit to the dentist by preparing them in the weeks leading up to their appointment.
- Read Stories. There are numerous books and resources available to help kids learn what to expect when they go to the dentist. Sesame Street’s Ready, Set, Brush! and Curious George Visits the Dentist by H. A. Rey are both excellent options. You can also watch videos of your child’s favorite characters going to the dentist and having fun.
- Play Games. Kids learn through play, so one of the best ways to alleviate anxiety leading up to a dental visit is to play games about the dentist. Role play visiting the dentist with their stuffed toys or dolls, or let your child be the dentist, and you can be the patient.
- Arrange a Pre-Checkup Visit. If possible, take your child to visit the dental clinic and staff before their first official visit. This can help them become acclimated to the environment, so it isn’t as intimidating when they have their first appointment. Most dentists are happy to show your child around the dentist’s chair and point out the fun instruments.
- Plan Your Visit According to Their Schedule. Booking their appointment when they are alert and typically in a good mood can make their first visit go a lot more smoothly. If possible, avoid visiting close to nap or meal times.
- Take a Friend. Taking along a beloved stuffed toy or blanket can put your child at ease and help them feel safe and secure.
- Use Positive Reinforcement. Speaking positively about their dentist and upcoming visit can do a lot to alleviate their concerns about their checkup. Praise their bravery and how they conquered their fears. If the visit doesn’t go to plan and your child gets upset, focus on the positive aspects of the visit, let them know how proud you are, and talk about ways to improve your next appointment.
Build Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits.
Good oral hygiene starts early, and the best way to ensure your child develops positive habits is with regular visits to a dentist. At TruBlu Dentistry, we want your child to be as comfortable as possible during their dental visit, and we focus on preventative care and education to help your child create healthy habits that last a lifetime. Call us to schedule your child’s first visit today.