We recommend that your child’s first dentist appointment take place within 6 months of eruption of the first tooth, or by age 1. At a child’s first dental visit, we strive for a relaxed, get-acquainted experience. A dental assistant will take your child to a dental care station to teach them how to brush and floss. The assistant will also apply fluoride and take dental X-rays if necessary. Then a dentist will finish the visit by examining your child and discussing dental results with you.
If your child is old enough to be nervous about their visit, talk to them first to help limit or overcome anxiety. Explain what will happen, but make it simple. Tell your child that the dentist will “count” and “take pictures” of his or her teeth. Try not to communicate any fear you might have about the dentist to your child. Avoid words like “shots,” “drills,” or “needles.”
Look for children’s books about the dentist to help show your child what happens at a dental visit. They usually contain pictures and let your child see what the inside of a dental office looks like. The more you can talk to your child about visiting the dentist in a calm and positive manner, the more likely they will feel confident in their first dentist appointment.
Although most general dentists routinely care for children, pediatric dentists specialize in the care of infants’, children’s, and teenagers’ teeth. They have 2 to 3 years more training to meet the special needs of these age groups. Pediatric dentists have special training in making children feel at ease and may have offices designed for children. If your child is nervous about visiting the dentist, finding a pediatric dentist could help improve their experience. As children reach their teenage years, many ‘graduate’ to a general dentist, who may have more experience with adult dental needs.