Child's first dentist visit

Taking your child to the dentist's office for a check-up by their first birthday or six months after their first tooth comes in, is an important step in ensuring healthy teeth and gums. In addition, knowing how to choose the right dentist, what to expect, and how to prepare will ease any anxiety and discomfort you or your child may experience during their first visit.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests bringing your child to the dentist six months after his first tooth comes in or by his first birthday, whichever comes first.

Preparing the night before

Setting up a plan the night before will help keep you calm and, in turn, make your child feel safe and relaxed. First, put your child in their crib for the night, a little bit earlier than you ordinarily would, to help ensure that he is well rested and cooperative in the morning. After he’s settled in, gather any items you may need and pack a diaper bag so that you'll have everything ready before the visit to the dentist’s office.

Once your baby is in bed and a diaper bag is packed, write down any concerns or questions you have about your child's oral health so you don't forget anything in the morning. This might include questions about how your children's teeth are growing, how to identify potential issues, how to take care of their oral health, or how to help them with teething pain. You may even want to turn in early yourself. Getting a good night’s rest will help keep your stress level down.

What to bring

Take your child's favorite toy, stuffed animal, or a security blanket with you to help him or her feel more comfortable around strangers and adapt to an unfamiliar environment. You should also bring extra diapers and a small snack in case the dental visit takes longer than you had expected.

If you have any toothbrushes or other oral health instruments that you're using with your child, make sure to bring them so that the dentist can advise you on whether they are appropriate and provide further technique directions.

What to expect

Your child's first dentist's visit will likely involve a review of their oral health history, an assessment of their current oral health, instructions for proper cleaning techniques, and scheduling follow-up visits or necessary treatments.

Be prepared for the dentist to interview you about the development of your child's teeth. He'll want to know exactly when the teeth came in, how many teeth you've noticed, and what your child's teething habits are. You'll also get the chance to ask questions about your child's dental health. The list you wrote the night before will help make sure that you address everything.

After getting your child's dental history, the dentist will ask you to hold your child so that they are facing you. The dentist will sit on a chair facing you as well and have you put your baby's head in his lap so that you can both look at the teeth at the same time. The dentist will examine your child's teeth and gums and give you recommendations about how to best care for them. He will also demonstrate teeth-cleaning procedures like brushing and have you try them in front of him so that he can make sure you know how to brush them correctly.

Finally, your dentist should give you an overview of how your child's teeth and gums will develop and schedule a follow-up visit so that he can check your child's development.

When should I schedule my child's first dental visit?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests bringing your child to the dentist six months after his first tooth comes in or by his first birthday, whichever comes first.

Is there a specific time of day I should bring my child in?

It's best to bring very young children into the dentist's office early in the morning. Infants tend to be more alert and less irritable in the mornings

Should I use a pediatric dentist?

Yes. Pediatric dentists are specifically trained to work with children. They not only have advanced knowledge of how children's mouths, gums, and teeth should develop, but are experts in dealing with scared, angry, or upset children. It'll be better for your child's stress level as well as his overall dental health to go to a pediatric dentist.

Can my child eat something before going to the dentist?

Your child should be able to eat before going to the dentist. However, you may want to feed them less than usual in case their stomach gets upset or the dentist needs to do any kind of treatment on their teeth.

How do I choose a pediatric dentist?

Ask for recommendations from your pediatrician and other parents. Before scheduling an appointment, visit theoffice to meet the dentist and talk to the receptionist. This can give you a sense of how friendly the office is and will let you see how other children react in the waiting room, or around the office.

Although you may be tempted to postpone your child's first dental visit until they are old enough to understand where they’re going, it's better to begin developing good oral health habits early. Going to the dentist with your child gives you the opportunity to learn how to take care of developing teeth or identify potential problems and allows your infant to get accustomed to a new environment. Selecting a reliable, convenient pediatric dentist can help create a comfortable routine for both you and your child during the next few years. If you make smart preparations ahead of time and bring your child in when they are at their best, you'll get the most out of your visit.

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