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Preparing your child for their first dentist appointment

Make sure your child’s first dentist visit is a positive experience to set them up for a lifetime of great oral health!

Fear of the dentist is considered normal and even joked about between kids and adults. TV shows and movies are filled with remarks and depictions of dentists as scary and anxiety-inducing.

No matter how old you get, however, visiting the dentist is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle. Creating a positive experience at the dentist for your child early on will start them on the right path to a lifetime of a healthy smile.

When should I start taking my child to the dentist?

A child can develop cavities as soon as they grow their first tooth[3]. You can begin taking your child to the dentist as soon as they develop that first tooth but should begin going before their first birthday at the latest.

How do I find the right dentist for my family?

The American Dental Association recommends asking for recommendations from friends and family before searching through advertisements and social media[2]. Once you’ve limited your options, check out their websites and finally their social media to make a choice that feels right for you.

Some key points to consider may include location and office hours[2].

It can also be helpful to call or meet the dentist before scheduling your appointment. Prepare for the meeting by creating a list of questions and concerns you may have. By visiting the office in person, you will have the opportunity to see if you feel comfortable in the office and with the staff.

How do I prepare my child for the visit?

Practice having your child open their mouth so it will not come as a shock when they arrive and the dentist requests this. Showing them media, including books or videos about what will happen when they get to the appointment can also help to ease stress[3].

Try not to schedule the appointment during your child’s naptime, make sure they’ve eaten before the visit and have a snack prepared for after[3].

What will happen when we get there?

The dentist will likely have you sit in the chair with your child sitting on your lap. The dentist will then check teeth and jaw development, mouth injuries, cavities and other possible issues, followed by a cleaning[3].

What now?

After the exam and cleaning, your dentist will talk to you about how to best care for your child’s teeth and allow you to ask any questions you may have[3].

To prevent future dental issues, it’s important to clean your child’s teeth on a regular basis by brushing them twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.[1].

It’s important to foster a positive relationship with the dentist for your children, so try to keep concerns and anxiety about this new experience away from your child. By creating healthy habits early on, your child will have a healthier smile in the future!

Cassidy Reaka

Cassi is a student at the University of Missouri studying Journalism with an emphasis in Strategic Communications and a minor in Sociology. She is a current copywriter for Relevant Youth. She hopes to one day work as a public relations specialist.

References

  1. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Healthy habits. Mouth Healthy TM. Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/healthy-habits
  2. American Dental Association. (n.d.). How to choose a dentist (in four steps). Mouth Healthy TM. Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/how-to-choose-a-dentist
  3. American Dental Association. (n.d.). Your baby's first dental visit. Mouth Healthy TM. Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/first-dental-visit