Preparing your child for their first visit to the dentist

Reviewed article by Dr. Taha Chersa published on Lumino Health. You can read the original article here.

Full disclosure: I delayed taking my son to the dentist. He was a high-strung child who had screamed his way through more than one doctor visit. I worried he would be anxious about sitting in the dentist’s chair, letting someone poke around in his mouth.

Your child's first visit to dentist

But when the time finally came, at the ripe old age of three, the whole process was positive and (gasp!) stress-free. It helped that I read him a book on what to expect during his visit. I also interviewed a few local dentists to find out who was a good fit. For my son, that was a firm but approachable dentist who had a lot of experience working with kids. She also had many toys in her office, a friendly hygienist and a box of prizes.

1. Plan for a positive experience

Take your child to the dentist for the first time six months after their first tooth grows in or by age one, the Canadian Dental Association says. This visit can identify and prevent dental issues. For example, thumb-sucking that can change a bite, misaligned teeth or cavities. A little preparation can go a long way to help your child feel comfortable at the dentist. Here are a few steps you can take, based on tips from Stanford Children’s Health:

  • Read age-appropriate books or watch videos about dentists with your child
  • Talk frequently about dentists in a positive way
  • Explain in advance what the dentist will do and how long it will take
  • Show your child a photo of the dental clinic or do a tour
  • Consider booking the appointment in the morning when your child is more awake

2. Choose a great dentist

Choosing a dentist who relates well to children can make your first visit easier. Talk with dentists in your area who work with children and get a sense of their experience and approach.

Find someone who can put your child at ease. This could be a pediatric dentist (also known as a paedodontist) or a family dentist. A good dentist for kids may have a few special qualities. For example, carefully explaining what will happen, letting the child clutch a stuffed toy, or simply being patient.

3. Know what to expect at the first visit

Your child’s first visit to the dentist is an opportunity to build a positive relationship with the dentist. It can also help to catch any early signs of problems. The dentist may also want to apply fluoride or take x-rays.

As a parent, you may also get tips on how to care for your child’s teeth. You can ask any questions you have about brushing and flossing your child’s teeth or ask for a demonstration. Cleaning your baby’s mouth is important from birth. Once teeth start to arrive, follow Canada’s guidelines for brushing and flossing:

  • Use a small toothbrush with soft bristles
  • Brush your child’s teeth for two minutes twice a day
  • Floss your child’s teeth once they start touching each other

Preparation can set your child up to feel positive about going to the dentist. After my son’s first dental visit, his first question was: “When can I come back?” Having smiled his way through the check-up, he left triumphantly clutching a new toothbrush.

Reviewed by Dr. Taha Chersa DMD, General Dentist

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