When Should My Child See a Dentist for the First Time?

Establishing a great oral hygiene routine for your kid is something you need to get an early start on. Earlier, perhaps, than you may think is necessary. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association both recommend that your little one visit the dentist for the first time when his or her first tooth appears—typically around his or her first birthday.

While this may seem super early, it’s never too soon to begin teaching good habits. As soon as your baby has teeth, cavities are a possibility! By establishing great dental health and hygiene practices early, you can help set the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Why It’s Important for Children to See a Dentist

Anyone who has ever tried dieting knows that developing healthy habits early on is easier than breaking bad habits. When you start your child on the path toward good oral hygiene early, they’re much more likely to make a lifelong habit of great dental care.

What to Expect at Your Child’s First Dental Appointment

If you’re nervous about taking your little one for a trip to the dentist, relax. Your child’s first dental visit is probably going to be a breeze. Your child’s first dental examination will likely be brief, allowing the dentist just enough time to check your child’s teeth for decay, examine your child’s bite, and look for potential problems along the gums, jaw, and soft oral tissues. If necessary, your dentist will clean your child’s teeth and apply fluoride. Expect your dental professional to share oral health care techniques, strategies, and development issues you can look forward to. The goal for the first visit is to make it as pleasant and positive as possible.

If you’ve been putting off going to the dentist, and your baby is already a toddler in need of a check-up, it’s time to find a family dental practice that sees the importance of dental care for the whole family. If your child is 5 or 6, or needs x-rays to investigate an underlying issue, look for a practice that uses painless panoramic dental imaging or intraoral imaging.

How You Can Prepare Your Child For a Trip to the Dentist

No matter what your child’s age, it’s important to prepare them for their first trip to the dentist. Here are a few great ways to get your kid ready for the dentist’s chair:

  • If your child is under three, have fun and be goofy while brushing teeth.
  • Have your little one practice opening and closing his or her mouth.
  • Try singing a favorite song without moving your mouth and let your child count or touch your teeth. Then, repeat the process on your child.
  • Visit the library and check out a few books about visiting the dentist. If your little one is a little anxious, Crocodile & The Dentist may be just the thing.
  • Be sure to complete paperwork prior to your appointment to make the visit flow as smoothly as possible
  • If you have questions about thumb-sucking, pacifier use, or other oral health questions, be sure to make a list!

What NOT to Do When Taking Your Kid to the Dentist for the First Time

  • Schedule an appointment at naptime or lunchtime. Whatever you do, don’t make this rookie mistake! Make sure you schedule the appointment for a time when your child is most likely to be calm and happy.
  • Send your kid to the dentist with dirty teeth. The goal here is to make the first few visits as easy as possible. Make sure that you give your child a light snack and a quick brushing before the appointment.
  • Fail to trust your instincts. If your child becomes agitated, distressed, or otherwise unhappy before the examination is complete. Don’t tough it out. You don’t want to make visiting the dentist a traumatic experience.  

Dr. Hecklin sees patients of all ages and loves working with families to get their children started on the road to a lifetime of good oral hygiene contact the offices of Dr. Steven R. Hecklin to schedule an appointment today!