child at dentist

Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist:  What You Need to Know

Raising kids is never easy and pretty much everything in their lives is your responsibility for the first few formative years.  That includes everything from getting them to bed, waking them up, feeding them properly to tasks like doctor’s visits and eventually day care.

Now we’re not trying to heap more pressure on you (we know you have enough on your plate already) but visiting the dentist early is another thing to add to your lengthy to do list.  In fact, it’s something you should be thinking about sooner than you think.  Experts recommend taking your youngster to their first dental visit shortly after the first tooth erupts, and certainly before your baby turns one year old.

There are a few reasons you need to take your child to the dentist at such an early age, including the following:

  • To get a general checkup from an expert and a mild mouth cleaning
  • Ensure your infant feeding practices are going well
  • Determine if bad pacifier or finger sucking habits could be harming tooth formation and alignment
  • Baby bottle tooth decay
  • Good ‘ol fashioned teething

Your children’s dentist is the person to see to get a good overview of where your child is at in terms of starting on their lifelong oral journey.  The sooner a dentist takes a look, the easier it is to make the adjustments which might be needed to ensure your child has a healthy smile for life.

How to prep your child to visit the dentist

Adults typically don’t enjoy having to visit the dentist, but you’d be surprised at how well young children adapt to the experience – provided you’ve prepared them correctly.

A good first move is to schedule your appointment in the morning so that your child is fresh, alert and not cranky.  In the days leading up to your appointment you can start building some playful excitement around the idea of a dentist, by reading your child fun oral health books (yes, they exist) or playing small games involving your child’s teeth and mouth to get them used to the touch.  Depending on how young your child is, explaining the importance and benefits of visiting the dentist could be a great idea so they understand that it’s a good thing, not something to be afraid of.

1. Get yourself prepared

If you’re apprehensive about the appointment for any reason, we suggest contacting your dental office with your questions or concerns.  As you well know by now, children will feed off their parent’s energy, so make sure you do whatever you need to do to keep yourself relaxed and feeling positive about the experience. 

Things like choosing a children’s dentist that’s nearby, whose office has ample parking or is easily accessible by transit are key things to consider.  A comfy waiting area and child friendly staff are also a must. 

The bottom line is that if you are feeling anxious and on edge, your child will more than likely have similar feelings.  Stay calm and everything will run smoothly – don’t worry – children at a young age are much more adaptable than you’d think.

2. Prepare your dentist too

While your children’s dentist will be an expert at dealing with young patients, it’s a good idea to pass on any knowledge you might deem beneficial before and during the appointment.  This can include things like your child’s dental history (if there is any), and the temperament of your child – are they anxious, stubborn or fearful in potentially stressful situations.

Then once you’re at the appointment, watch your child’s reactions.  You can probably guess what’s coming next and hopefully have a good idea of what you need to do to diffuse any situation.  Certain behaviours are sometimes linked to the age of your child:

  • 12-24 months – If your child is attached to you they may get upset when separated for a dental exam.
  • 24-48 months – Children in this age range are better at coping with separation and a brief time may be acceptable. It is best for parents to be in the same room as their kids.
  • 48 months plus – Most kids will be able to sit through their dental appointment on their own with parents in the waiting room (or nearby).

3. What to expect during your first appointment

The initial appointment is all about getting your child to feel comfortable with the dentist and having a stranger examining their mouth.  First visits usually take between 30 to 45 minutes and often include a full exam to cover all areas of the mouth such as teeth, gums, jaws, bite alignment, oral tissues and checking on oral development and growth.  A quick and gentle cleaning is also to be expected, which may include plaque or tartar removal and a quick polish if required.  Fluoride is administered on a case-by-case basis and will be discussed with the parent beforehand.  X-rays aren’t typical but sometimes issues like potentially jammed or decaying baby teeth require a closer look.

You might think that 45 minutes is a long time for a first visit, especially with a young toddler, and it is.  The reason for the lengthy appointment is because there are a lot of things to go over, discussions required with the parent and the appointment needs to be fun.  The lighthearted aspect means that things can’t be rushed, and children need to be comfortable before any examinations can take place.

In conclusion

Taking your child to the dentist at a very early age is key to establishing a good routine for a life of oral health.  It helps get your child accustomed to the dentist so they don’t have anxiety issues later on, while helping ensure that teeth are coming in as they should be, and everything is healthy.  Don’t stress, keep everything in perspective and it will be fine.  Communicate with your child and your dentist to make sure everyone is on the same page and the appointment will run smoothly.

Mo Mulla

Mo Mulla is a work from home dad who enjoys reading and listening to music, He loves being a dad and husband to a growing family. He also loves writing about his passions and hopes to change the world, 1 blog post at a time!

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