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Dentists recommend scheduling your little one’s first appointment by age 1 or within 6 months of a tooth coming in. Don’t worry though if you have your child’s first dental visit at age 2 or beyond. The important thing is
No matter when you schedule it, the first dental visit can be scary for you and your child. Use these tips to make your child’s first dental visit easier.
Find the Best Dentist
Every successful dental visit starts with a dentist who works well with kids. Pediatric and family dentists work with kids all the time and should know how to put them at ease.
When you search for a family dentist near me, review the website to learn their care philosophy. Look for an experienced dentist who is patient and welcoming. Check out the office to make sure it’s a warm, inviting environment that’ll help put your child at ease.
If you’re concerned about your child being anxious or having trouble with the appointment, contact the dental office. Ask them what they do to put kids at ease and let them know about your concerns for your child. Find out what they do when kids are scared or don’t cooperate well.
These questions can give you an idea of whether or not the dentist is a good fit. Look for an office that’s patient and understanding with kids who are nervous.
Consider the Timing
A baby first dental visit is much easier when your little one is in a good mood. When scheduling the appointment, think about the times of day when your child is the happiest and most agreeable, which is often the morning for many young kids. This increases the chances of having a successful visit without a temper tantrum.
Avoid times when your baby is usually cranky or irritable. An appointment around nap time or just before meal times could result in a temper tantrum. The visit is much easier on both of you when you plan around those grumpy times of day.
Knowing exactly what to expect at the appointment can relieve some of your concerns. This puts you at ease and makes it easier to reassure your child. It can also help you better explain to an older child what will happen.
The first visit usually just involves a quick exam of your child’s mouth. The dentist checks to see if the teeth, gums, and tongue look healthy and are developing normally. Cleaning and examining your child’s teeth usually only takes a few minutes on this initial visit.
There’s also time for the dentist to talk to you about proper oral hygiene for your baby. The dentist should take time to put your child at ease to make them feel more comfortable.
Offer Age-Appropriate Explanations
If your child is old enough to understand, talk about the upcoming dental visit. Let your child know that the dentist will look at their teeth and make sure they’re healthy. Ask if they have any questions about what to expect and answer them in a positive, encouraging way.
Keep the topics and explanations age appropriate. For a 2 year old first dental visit, you can explain a little more than you would a 1 year old. Older toddlers or preschoolers can understand even more and can ask questions or share their feelings on seeing the dentist.
Show Pictures or Read Books
You can also show your child what will happen by using pictures, videos, and books. This gives them a glimpse inside of a dental office so they know what to expect if they’ve never been to one. They can also see how dentists look and what tools they might use.
Some kids’ books that work include “Just Going to the Dentist” by Mercer Mayer, “The Tooth Book” by Dr. Seuss, and “Curious George Visits the Dentist” by H.A. Rey. These books are fun to read, and they give you topics to discuss with your older toddler before a dental visit.
Play Pretend Dentist
If your child is old enough for pretend play, act out what will happen at the appointment to prepare your child. Walk through each step, including checking in and going back to an exam room.
You can use a doll or stuffed animal as the patient and take turns being the dentist. This is also a good refresher before every dental appointment, even if it isn’t your child’s first visit.
Have a Positive Attitude
Your child’s first dental visit is an exciting milestone, but it can also be a little scary for you and them. You might be worried about how your child will react.
Instead of focusing on the possibilities and worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, take a more positive approach. Talk about the dentist in a positive way instead of acting nervous. If you have your own apprehensions about going to the dentist, avoid passing that on to your kids.
Pack Comfort Items
Kids of all ages tend to have favorite comfort items that soothe them when they’re anxious. Pack your child’s favorite items, such as a stuffed animal or blanket, before the visit. Having that item along for the ride can make your child feel safe.
Bringing a few toys can also be helpful. The toys help distract your child before the appointment to avoid feelings of anxiety. They might also like holding the toys during the exam.
Revisit After a Long Break
Has it been a while since your child’s last dental checkup? If it’s your child’s first dental visit in years, it can feel like starting over for them even though they’ve been there before.
Many of the same techniques work for older kids returning to the dentist after a long break. When your child is older, they’re better able to understand stories and conversations about the dentist.
They can also express their feelings if they’re anxious about the dentist. This is your time to listen to their concerns and put them at ease about them. You can answer questions they have with facts and help them feel better prepared for the visit.
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Prepare for the First Dental Visit
When you prepare for your child’s first dental visit, offer age-appropriate options to understand what’s happening and help your child feel comfortable. Staying positive can help with the visit.
Explore our health archives for more advice for keeping your family healthy.