First Dentist Appointment Tips for Parents of Young Children
Your Child’s First Visits to the Dentist
Did you know that children should regularly begin seeing a dentist as early as their 1st birthday? The ADA recommends that parents plan their child’s first dentist appointment within six months of their first tooth erupting and no later than one year of age.
There are 3 big reasons why early dental care is an important part of a child’s life:
- The sooner your child develops a positive relationship with a dentist, the more comfortable they’ll feel at appointments throughout their life.
- Problems like cavities can begin as soon as a baby tooth erupts, making early dental visits an important part of tooth decay prevention and awareness.
- When a dentist can begin monitoring the growth of a child’s smile as early as one year of age, they’ll be better prepared to catch warning signs of trouble before they develop.
Here are our top dentist appointment tips for helping your child have the best experience possible at your family dentist.
8 Ways to Prepare Kids for a Great Dental Care Experience
1. Use positive, age-appropriate language when talking about dentists.
Even if you have dental anxiety, it’s imperative to always talk about dentists and dental appointments in a positive manner. Kids can easily pick up on their parent’s anxieties and worries, so be aware of the words you use when discussing their upcoming appointments.
Most importantly, use age-appropriate language, meaning it’s probably best to leave out phrases like “drilling” or “shots” with little ones.
2. Play “dentist” at home and introduce some basic phrases they’ll hear.
Kids are always eager to play a new game! Before their upcoming appointment, spend some time playing “dentist” at home. You can use your imagination or buy a kids’ dentist toy kit for a little more realism. Take turns being the dentist and the patient, and introduce actions they’ll probably need to do during their visit, like “Open wide!”
3. Read books and watch videos about dentists featuring your child’s favorite characters.
Seeing a favorite character visit a dentist and have a good time is a great way to help kids prepare for their own appointments. You can find books to read or hop on YouTube to find specific episodes of your child’s favorite cartoon characters. It’s a good idea to watch these videos before showing your child, just in case the dentist is portrayed as being scary.
4. For babies, begin examining and touching inside their mouths with a clean finger.
If you’re on track for your baby visiting the dentist on their first birthday, now is the time to practice oral exams. Start getting them used to opening their mouths for a short time and having a finger gently press on their gums.
We also strongly recommend parents begin wiping their baby’s gums after meals as soon as possible. Brushing with an infant toothbrush should also begin as soon as their first tooth erupts.
5. Consider scheduling Happy Visits before booking a real exam appointment.
Happy Visits are like a field trip to the dentist. They are a great way for young kids to see their dentist’s office, meet the staff and their dentist, sit in an exam room chair, and basically experience everything but a full examination or cleaning. Family dentists, including the Tooth Doc, will gladly have you and your child come in for a Happy Visit before an actual eczema appointment.
6. Book their appointments at a time of day when they’re feeling good.
Very young children who are on a regular schedule for meals and nap times won’t cope well with a dentist appointment if they feel hungry, tired, and grumpy. Work with your dentist’s schedule and see if you can book a time after your child has had a nap and meal but before they begin to get tired.
7. Trust the dentist and their team to take the lead with your child once you’re back in the exam room.
No one knows your child as well as you do, but it’s also important to remember that your child’s dentist is experienced in working with kids. Some kids behave better and feel more confident when their parents aren’t in the room. Others may benefit from a parent sitting on a chair in the exam room. Speak with your child’s dentist and trust them to recommend the best course of action.
8. Don’t use bribery, but you can plan an enjoyable outing or event for after appointments.
Bribing kids to behave at a dentist’s office doesn’t necessarily create a positive experience. If your child does have a tough time, withholding the bribe can wind up causing even more negative behavior.
A better option is to skip the bribes, but plan to do something enjoyable after the visit, even if your child did struggle or act up. Reinforcing positive events with dental appointment days can be effective in helping young children look forward to seeing their dentist.
The Tooth Doc provides gentle family dental care for kids of all ages.
The Tooth Doc provides comprehensive family dentistry in Omaha, NE, and surrounding communities. As part of our family-focused approach to dental care, we invite parents to bring their kids in for their first dental experiences in a dentist’s office.
Our approach to pediatric dental care focuses first on helping kids become comfortable in a dental office setting and grow to trust our team. We work with your child at their pace and do whatever we can to help create a positive, fun experience that will leave them excited to come back for their next visit.
Schedule a Happy Visit for your child or a routine exam via phone, text, or online request.