As a parent, you know that dental hygiene is important right from the start, but you might not know exactly what kind of care your little one needs. Getting information about dental care is best done by visiting a professional, so getting your child to the dentist early on is essential.
Wondering when’s the right time for your child’s first dentist visit and what will happen during this initial appointment? We’ll explain everything!
When Should the First Dentist Visit Happen?
Believe it or not, dentists recommend that your child’s first dentist visit should happen after they get those very first teeth! While that may seem far too early, dentists insist that starting a dental care routine as soon as teeth are present is best for your child’s dental health.
If you’re not ready to introduce your child to the dentist or dentist’s office right when they get their first teeth, the first appointment should occur by the time they reach a year old. It’s common for parents to believe that toddlers don’t need to visit the dentist yet because they are too young or don’t have enough teeth, but this is actually untrue. As soon as the teeth are present, a visit to the dentist is warranted.
Unfortunately, most children don’t see the dentist for the first time until they are over two years old. You may be surprised to learn that tooth decay can start as early as two years old, so if you’re waiting until then to start a dental care routine it may already be too late.
Getting your child in for a visit to the dentist as early as possible gives them the best chance for healthy teeth in the future.
Getting Ready for Your Child’s First Appointment
Ensuring that your child has a positive first experience with their dentist starts long before you get to the appointment. The first step is choosing a dentist familiar with caring for toddlers, which often means that you can’t just take your kid to the same dentist you see. Talk to your dentist first and see if they have experience with toddlers. If not, your dentist will probably be able to recommend a great kid-friendly dentist. You may want to seek out a pediatric dentist, which is a dentist whose entire practice is devoted to caring for children’s teeth from infancy on.
Once you’ve scheduled the appointment, you’re probably wondering what you’re child’s first visit to the dentist will entail, especially if they don’t have many teeth yet. At this first visit, the goal is less about the dentist getting a glance at those tiny pearly whites and more about getting your child comfortable with the dental office, the staff, dental tools, and the events of an appointment.
Plenty of adults are scared of going to the dentist, so it’s not difficult to imagine that a child’s first trip to the dentist might be overwhelming or scary. That’s why it’s very important for the first appointment to be about developing trust and familiarity. This will help take the fear out of dental visits right from the beginning.
What the First Appointment Will Be Like
As soon as you enter the office with your toddler, the focus on creating familiarity and trust begin. Have a quick chat with the front desk staff and introduce your child to them. While you wait, let your child actively explore the waiting room so it’s not foreign the next time you’re there.
When it’s time to see the dentist, introduce your child to the dentist and let the dentist talk with them freely so your child sees that the dentist is just another person in their life. The dentist will talk directly to your child, explaining what will happen during the appointment. This may seem silly if your child isn’t yet verbal, but toddlers understand far more than we think. Plus, explaining the events of the visit in a simple and conversational way gets your child familiar with their dentist and helps put them at ease. Some dentists even use puppet shows or children’s books to explain these processes to make your child even more comfortable.
Once your child is comfortable with the dentist, the dentist will start to show your child the tools they will use during the appointment. Often, the tools are the scariest thing for children, so showing them the tools and demonstrating how they’re used before using them on your child is essential to making them more comfortable with their first exam. Some kid-friendly dentists use fun names for the tools as well so they’re easier for your child to accept.
After doing all this, the dentist may have your child sit in the seat and they may try to do a very simple exam, but not always. Sometimes it’s best to have the very first visit be introductory only. If the dentist does want to try a quick exam, you’ll always be right there and involved. Your child can choose to sit in your lap if they’re nervous.
If your child is too nervous or gets scared, the dentist will stop the exam. It’s not a big deal if the exam doesn’t happen on the first visit, so a good kid-friendly dentist won’t push past your child’s comfort level. And of course, a good kid-friendly dentist will offer a prize like a sticker or small toy after the visit.
Establishing a Good Dental Routine
After that first exam, it’s very important to establish a routine for dental care. Dentists recommend that children, even toddlers, have a dentist visit at least every six months. If you notice an issue, obviously schedule an appointment earlier, but at the very least your child should be seeing the dentist twice a year at equal intervals.
If you have more questions about finding an excellent kid-friendly dentist or how you can promote good dental health with your child, check out the FAQ section on our website!