Your child’s first dentist appointment will help ensure their teeth and gums are healthy as well as begin the process of supporting their oral care for life. The American Dental Association recommends that children see the dentist right around the time their first tooth comes in, or no later than their first birthday .
During this appointment, your kid-friendly dentist will gently but thoroughly examine your child’s smile and can even help determine if your child could be at higher risk for cavities. How can you prepare your child for their first dentist appointment, especially if they are older?
Even if you yourself are not a fan of the dentist, it’s important to stay positive and not pass your fears onto your child. Children are perceptive and may pick up on your anxiety prior to their appointment. Do your best to be optimistic and confident about their appointment, both when talking about the visit beforehand and on the way to the dentist office to help your child stay relaxed and worry-free for their first appointment.
Educate Your Child
Let your child know why they’re going to the dentist as well as what will happen during the appointment. They don’t need to know every single detail, but you should give them a good general idea of what to expect . Some things that will happen during your child’s first dental visit include:
- An exam of their teeth, jaws, bite, and gums
- A gentle cleaning (if needed)
- A review of proper oral care techniques for brushing and flossing
- Depending on your child’s age, x-rays may be recommended (typically only for older
The entire visit will take approximately 30-45 minutes. If your child is old enough, you can use books or videos to help explain what will happen during the appointment so that your child isn’t apprehensive and has a better idea about what to expect. You can also play dentist at home—act out the appointment or have your child play dentist using stuffed animals!
Consider the Appointment Time
It’s a good idea to make your child’s first dentist appointment during a time when they are generally more relaxed and comfortable. For example, making the appointment during naptime or lunchtime may make your child more tired or irritable during the visit.
Generally, morning times work better for children, as they are rested, alert, and have already eaten their first meal of the day. Ask your dentist what appointment times are available so you can better prepare your child!
Find a Great Pediatric Dentist
Your child’s dentist will be their partner in oral care as they grow and develop their permanent teeth. Working with a dentist you trust and whom you feel has a great rapport with your child is important. Research pediatric dentists in your area, or consider using the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s tool to find an accredited practice near you . Your child’s smile will be strong and healthy for life with regular dentist visits!