According to AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) guidelines, infants should initially visit the pediatric dentist around the time of their first birthday. Dr. Green would prefer to see them when they have all 20 primary teeth in place, around 4 or 5 years old. First visits can be stressful for parents, especially for parents who have dental phobias themselves.
It is imperative for parents to continually communicate positive messages about dental visits (especially the first one), and to help the child feel as happy as possible about visiting the dentist.
How can I prepare for my child’s first dental visit?
Provide positive explanations – It is important to explain the purposes of the dental visit in a positive way. Explaining that the dentist “helps keep teeth healthy” is far better than explaining that the dentist “is checking for tooth decay and might have to drill the tooth if decay is found.”
Explain what will happen – Anxiety can be vastly reduced if the child knows what to expect. Age-appropriate books about visiting the dentist can be very helpful in making the visit seem fun. Here is a list of parent and dentist-approved books:
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist – by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
- Show Me Your Smile: A Visit to the Dentist – Part of the “Dora the Explorer” Series.
- Going to the Dentist – by Anne Civardi.
- Elmo Visits the Dentist – Part of the “Sesame Street” Series.
What will happen during the first visit?
There are several goals for the first dental visit. First, the dentist needs to monitor tooth and jaw development to get an idea of the child’s overall health history. Second, the dentist needs to evaluate the health of the existing teeth and gums. Finally, the dentist aims to answer questions the parents may ask.
The following sequence of events is typical of an initial “well baby checkup”:
- Dental staff will greet the child and parents.
- The infant/family health history will be reviewed (this may include questionnaires).
- The hygienist will address parental questions and concerns.
- More questions will be asked, generally pertaining to the child’s oral habits, pacifier use, general development, tooth alignment, tooth development, and diet.
- The hygienist will provide advice on good oral care, how to prevent oral injury, and avoiding fluoride intake.
- The child's teeth will be examined. Generally if the child is very young, the dentist and parent sit facing each other with the child positioned so that his or her head is cradled in mom's lap. This position allows the child to look at the parent during the examination.
- Good brushing and flossing demonstrations will be provided by the hygienist.
- The state of the child’s oral health will be described, and recommendations will be made.
- If there are problems that need correcting, the hygienist will outline an appointment schedule and describe what will happen during the next appointment.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s first dental visit, please contact our office.