General Dentistry |3 min read

How to Prepare Your Child for Their First Visit to the Dentist

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child’s first dental appointment within six months of getting his or her first tooth or by the age of 1. The main focus of the first appointment is to examine the child’s bite and determine if there are potential problems with the child’s oral tissues, jaw or gums. The child’s teeth will be examined for decay and gently cleaned. Fluoride is applied if necessary.

The dentist will also speak with the parents about the need for good oral health care. Any questions are answered and milestones are discussed. Nutrition also plays an important role in a child’s oral hygiene. Habits such as thumb sucking, lip sucking and tongue thrusting are also addressed. The dentist can also provide advice for the relief of teething pain.

Making the First Dental Visit Easier on the Child

Because a child doesn’t have anything to relate to a first visit to the dentist, he or she could experience stress, anxiety, fear and other negative emotions. By preparing a child for this important visit, he or she can be less fearful and even look forward to seeing the dentist.

It’s important to make this visit positive. Don’t complain or speak negatively about the dentist, as many children listen when you aren’t expecting it. Answer your child’s questions about the dentist truthfully, but keep these answers short and simple. A long, drawn-out answer that paints the dentist unfavorably can confuse the child. Avoid talking about pain at all.

If your child wants to, let him or her wear his or her favorite costume. A little princess or Batman costume can help bring the child a bit of extra courage. You also want your child to know that you will be with them. Bring their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. You may also want to plan one of your child’s favorite activities afterwards.

Additional Tips

A pediatric dentist went to school for at least two more years after dental school. This extra training covers child behavior, the treatment and care of a child’s developing teeth and other special needs of children’s dentistry. A pediatric dentist’s office is usually decorated so that children are put at ease when they arrive and while they are there.

X-rays are not taken during a child’s first dental visit unless the dentist feels the child is at a higher risk of dental problems, such as with a cleft lip or palate. Most children will have their first set of X-rays taken when they are five or six years old.

Some parents have seen the same dentist for decades and that may be who they want their children to see, too. In many cases, the child has already accompanied a parent to a dental appointment and they are already comfortable with that dentist. This may be a good place to schedule a child’s first dental visit.

You can find several books that are geared towards a child’s first dental visit. These can be a great help to easing a child’s fears and showing him or her what to expect. Another tip is to plan a casual visit to the dentist before the big day. This will also go a long way toward making your child more comfortable.

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