Did you know that children should see a dentist for the first time by their first birthday? Even if your little one doesn’t have many (or any) teeth yet, it’s important to have their mouth evaluated by a pediatric dentist.
Good oral care actually starts in infancy, but it’s never too late to build healthy dental habits for your children. Naturally, that first appointment can come with some anxiety, but there are many ways to ease your child’s nerves.
Choosing A Dentist for Your Child’s First Visit
When you take your child for physical check-ups, you probably take them to a pediatrician, right? Just as pediatricians specialize in treating children, pediatric dentists work with younger patients.
Pediatric dentists studied child development and behavioral management to prepare for treating children. They may put more effort into creating a youthful, energetic environment to build trust and help ease fears.
There are a few ways to find a pediatric dentist for your child. You could Google pediatric dentists in your area, ask your pediatrician for recommendations, or reach out to fellow parents for suggestions. Additionally, if you have dental insurance, you can get a list of providers from them.
What To Expect at Child’s First Dental Visit
It will be difficult to prepare your child if you don’t know what to expect at their first visit. You may want to inquire about how the dentist’s office handles first visits.
Keep in mind that while first visits are generally geared towards the introduction and acclimating your child, there will be an exam. The pediatric dentist will examine your child’s mouth to look for signs of decay. They also review good oral hygiene habits for your benefit as much as your child’s.
Preparing for the First Dental Visit
The dental team may ask some questions for you to help ease into the visit. However, as the parent, there are some additional steps you can take to make things run more smoothly.
- Inquire about an office tour to familiarize yourself with the location and layout.
- Communicate any special needs your child has that may impact the success of the visit.
- Communicate calming toys, songs, videos, and even colors. Many pediatric dentists have colorful or character-themed rooms that could help set your child at ease.
- Schedule the appointment wisely to ensure your child is fed and well-rested. Trying to do a first appointment right before nap time or lunch can be problematic.
Once you know what to expect at your child’s first visit, you can set things in motion for your child. It’s not the best idea to make the visit a surprise, so start discussing dental visits and the importance of seeing a dentist early on.
Openly talking about what will happen and why it is necessary can help. You may want to talk about how you also go to the dentist to put your child at ease.
Role Play with a Favorite Toy
Your child probably participates in pretend play with favorite toys all of the time. Why not put this playtime to good use? Acting out a dental visit and exam with your little one’s favorite toys can help ease anxiety.
Enlist Popular Characters to Help
Who is your child’s favorite character? From Elmo and the Sesame Street gang to Peppa Pig to Elsa, Anna, and Olaf, popular kids’ characters can have a massive impact on how they see the world, including a trip to the dentist.
These are some of our favorite books about going to the dentist.
- Curious George Visits the Dentist
- Dentist Trip with Peppa Pig
- Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist with Dora the Explorer
Here are some of our favorite videos about going to the dentist.
- Curious George Goes to the Dentist!
- Sesame Street Dentist Video (It’s an oldie but goodie!!)
- Caillou at the Dentist
- The Feelingwells Visiting the Dentist
- SpongeBob SquarePants – The Dentist
Teach Your Child Some Popular Dental Songs
If your kiddo is into music, you may want to try these fun dentist-themed songs. You can even sing them on your way to the visit!
- Tooth Brushing Song by Blippi
- Going to the Dentist Song – Little Baby Bum’s Preschool Playhouse
- Visiting the Dentist – Little Angel Kids Songs
Print Out Dental-Themed Coloring Pages
For budding artists, coloring is a soothing activity that can be done at home and at the dentist’s office. These coloring pages could help ease their fears and get them in the mood!
- There are several options for kids of all ages here: free dental coloring pages.
- Mavs fans will love these Dallas Mavericks pages.
- Here’s a selection of dental activity sheets from the ADA (American Dental Association).
- Try these four free dental coloring pages for kids.
At the Dentist
For your child’s first appointment, it’s a good idea to arrive early to complete forms and provide a complete medical history. Bring something familiar, like a favorite toy or book, for your child to play with while you wait.
As a parent, you can help your child by remaining calm, patient, and positive throughout the appointment. Encourage your kiddo and point out all of the new, exciting things around you.
If your child is old enough, you may want to plan a special treat for after the dentist. Avoid using food-related activities, but try to choose something positive. This approach provides motivation and creates a positive correlation to visiting the dentist.
After the Dentist – Preparing for Future Visits
After the dentist, maybe while you’re enjoying the post-visit treat, it’s a good idea to discuss the experience. Talk about what happened at the appointment and remind them of the good parts.
- It didn’t cause pain.
- The dentist was nice.
- Didn’t that toothpaste taste good?
- They got a new toothbrush to use at home.
Reiterating what happened at the appointment prepares your child for future visits. Planting the seed for the next visit will make it that much easier than the first one!