Navigating the many milestones of your child’s first few years can be as stressful as it is wonderful. We know there are many questions along the way, and we at Pinnacle Dental are glad to answer any questions you may have about your child’s oral health including their first visit. We understand that being a parent is as full of “first times” for you as it is for your child. Here are a few helpful tips to make the most out of your child’s first visit to the dentist for both you and your child.
When to schedule your baby's first dental visit
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry a child should be seen for his or her first visit at the time of the first tooth erupting, or no later than their first birthday. This visit is often just a quick exam to make sure everything is developing correctly, there are no cavities and to answer any questions the parents may have for the doctor. A fluoride treatment may be applied as well to protect the baby teeth from cavities. It is not uncommon for a child to cry at this visit since they are so young, but it is ok. Crying actually gives us a better look! If any concerns are noted, a referral may be provided to a Pediatric Dentist.
Establishing a routine and getting the child comfortable with the dentist office is the key to building a great relationship and healthy habits that can benefit them their entire lives. Most often we see children around the age of 2 or 3 for their first visit. At this visit, we don’t let the child control the appointment, but we do take queues from them on how ready they are for this visit. Sometimes the first visit is just a “meet and greet” to get the child comfortable with the office and staff. Other times we are able to complete an entire appointment, complete with cleaning, fluoride treatment and exam. We never want to push a child into something they are not ready for - visits like that can often lead to life-long negative expectations at the dentist. We want to provide a positive experience, not a scary one.
How to Prepare
Planning ahead can keep you calm and your child relaxed at each appointment:
- Speak only positively of the dentist! We often see children are scared of the dentist because they have heard their parents speak poorly of what happens. Let the child form his or her own, hopefully positive, opinions of the dentist, don’t flood them with negativity.
- Don’t use scary words like “hurt,” “poke,” or “shot” to describe what will happen. Once again, this sets negative expectations before the child even comes to the office. Use positive words like “brushing your teeth” and “looking in your mouth” when explaining how fun the dental office can be. This lets the child know it is a safe environment.
- Help your child brush and floss their teeth. Healthy habits start at home; make it fun. And remember, a child does not have the fine motor control to properly brush their teeth until they are around 10 years old! If they insist on doing it on their own, make sure you insist you also brush their teeth either before or after they do.
- These books are a great way to prepare your child for their first visit: Dentist Trip (Peppa Pig) The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist
During the Visit
- Let your child bring a favorite toy or animal, as long as it's not too distracting, which they can hold or let you hold. This often makes them feel they are in control of the appointment and is comforting. We have also been known to check a few favorite stuffy’s teeth while in the chair!
- We will let them pick their toothbrush or toothpaste, once again, letting them feel in control.
- You may hear us use terms like “our tiny vacuum”, “Mr. Slurpy” or “tickle toothbrush” to make them feel more comfortable and to make it fun.
- Give the dental hygienist or Dr. Kottman center stage. We know you know your child better than anyone else and you love to help, but some times it sends mixed signals to the child when a staff member is giving them directions and so is the parent. This allows the child to focus on the staff member and form a relationship with us.
Setting a positive precedent for dental appointments at an early age can help children create life long oral hygiene habits. By following these steps and taking the time to prepare for your child's first dental visit, you can help your child enjoy the dentist and look forward to future appointments.