Preparing Your Child For the First Dental Visit

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  • Start now. The AAPD recommends that every child establish a dental home and visit a dentist by her first birthday. The earlier the visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems.
  • If you have a toddler who has not yet seen a dentist, consider a “get acquainted” visit to introduce your child to the dental office before the first appointment.
  • Choose a pediatric dental practice. Pediatric dentists have two to three years of specialized training beyond dental school in treating children. Plus, the offices are “child-friendly.”
  • Select an appointment time when your child is alert and rested.
  • You, as the parent, play a key role in your child’s dental care. Children often perceive a parent’s anxiety which makes them more fearful. They tolerate procedures best when their parents understand what to expect and prepare them for the experience. If you have any questions about the appointment, please ask. As you become more confident, so will your child.
  • Explain before the visit that the dentist is a friend and will help your child keep his teeth healthy. Add that the visit will be fun.
  • Answer all your child’s questions positively. (Keep an ear out for scary stories from peers and siblings.)
  • Be careful about using scary words. Check-ups and 90 percent of first visits do not have anything to do with “hurt,” so do not even use the word!
  • Read your child a story about a character that had a good dental visit. (Ask the dental office for suggested reading.)
  • Make a list of your questions about your child’s oral health in advance. This could include such topics as home care, injury prevention, diet and snacking, fluoride and tooth development.
  • Give your child some control over the dental visit. Such choices as “Will you hold your bear or should I?” or “Which color toothbrush do you like?” will make the visit more enjoyable.