Preparing Your Child for the First Dental Visit
Many parents want to know: what should I do about my child’s first dental visit? When should it happen, and how can I prepare for it?
Do It Early
The American Dental Association recommends that all children visit a dentist right around their first birthday. There are a few reasons for this: first of all, this ensures that their first visit is a happy one. Instead of waiting until there’s a cavity or an accident, we do a routine checkup and give your child a chance to be comfortable with our office. If you wait until there’s a cavity or accident, we risk associating the dental office with pain and anxiety instead. Secondly, this allows us to do the finest part of dentistry: preventive care. We can check for possible problems and advise both of you on the best techniques and methods to take care of your child’s teeth.
An early dental visit for your child gives us a chance to examine your child’s teeth and check for any growth and development problems in the teeth, or in the soft palate. While age 1 may seem early to most parents, the truth is that kids are getting cavities younger and younger, and early childhood caries can be severe and painful to fix if you don’t stay vigilant.
You can make a dental office visit a lot more fun for your child if you practice it a bit first. Look into books that talk about dental visits, play dentist at home with your child, and have them practice opening their mouth so you can count their teeth. Teach them to brush as soon as they have one tooth in.
All of these steps will make a dental visit feel much more comfortable and normal. Remember, while you’re preparing for the visit, plan out the appointment for a time when your child will be alert and relaxed, instead of the afternoon when they’re used to getting a nap. If they’re fussy and tired, the process could get bumpy. Also remember that you really don’t need to bribe them. To a child, a dental appointment will be just business as usual if you treat it as such. However, if you give them a signal that it will be a harrowing experience, they’ll start to mirror your impressions.
Be a Good Example
The single biggest influence on whether a child will be anxious about a dental visit is the mother or father. If you have a hard time keeping your dental appointments, don’t demonstrate regular tooth hygiene, and start getting anxious when you enter our office, your child will pick up on it. That’s why we encourage you to come in and get to know us first, if you want. We want both you and your child to feel comfortable and at-home in our office. A good successful visit as a child is the first step in lifelong dental health.