Bringing your child to the dentist for the first time can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be filled with fear or anxiety for your little one. Take a look at our complete guide to your child’s first visit to a dentist’s office, where we answer questions about various topics. We want your family to have a positive, uplifting experience whenever you walk through our doors.
When Should I Bring My Baby to Their First Dentist Appointment?
Our pediatric dentist recommends bringing your baby to a dentist within 6 to 12 months after their first tooth pokes through the gums. Your baby’s first tooth will start coming in between 4 and 7 months old, so the first appointment to a pediatric dentist should happen between 1 and 2 years old.
Why Should I Take My Baby to the Dentist at Such a Young Age?
There are four main reasons why getting your baby in to see us by age 2 is essential.
- Your child’s pediatric dentist can inform you about and monitor any possible tooth decay caused by baby bottle feeding.
- The doctor can assess your baby’s overall oral health and development for the jaw, gums, and teeth coming in.
- Your child’s pediatric dentist can show you the best way to brush your child’s teeth at such a young age for the best results.
- It will get your child used to coming to the dentist at a young age, which can alleviate dental anxiety or fears later in life.
Differences Between a Pediatric Versus Regular Dentist
The main difference is that a board-certified pediatric dentist has two years of advanced training beyond the four years required to become a dentist. These extra two years of training focus on the treatment of developing teeth, child behavior, and psychology to allay their fears of dentists and dental procedures and special techniques only applicable to children.
Another important distinction is the layout of the office. Pediatric dentist offices appear less sterile and have vibrant colors, and the entire pediatric team is specially trained to talk to younger patients to keep them calm and comforted. We’ll also explain dental tools and procedures in a kid-friendly way to help your child feel more at ease with a visit to our office. Dr. Stuart Scott and our pediatric team are experts at providing a fun, safe environment for children. We’ll make sure your child enjoys their visit!
How Should I Prepare My Child for Their First Visit to the Dentist?
Depending on your child’s age, you can do various things to prepare them for the first visit to a pediatric dentist’s office and to allay your child’s fears of the dentist.
For babies and younger children, it’s vital to always have a positive attitude. Youngsters may be a bit leery of strangers at first, so Mom and Dad should do whatever they can to always be cheerful about the first visit. By age 3, toddlers can understand more complex concepts, and fears or anxieties about a strange place might manifest differently than in a baby who isn’t as articulate.
Ahead of a pediatric dentistry visit, we suggest the following tips and tricks:
Teach your child good oral hygiene habits at home and be a role model by brushing and flossing your own teeth. Practicing positive oral hygiene habits and teaching your child how to brush and floss will make dental office visits easier.
Talk to your child beforehand by explaining what the visit will be like, and encourage them to talk about their feelings. If they are scared and anxious, that generally comes from their fear of the unknown. The more that you can explain in a calm, comforting manner, the better your child will feel during their first appointment.
Keep explanations of the dental office visit simple and direct. Answer your child’s questions as briefly as possible without giving them too much information that could complicate things.
Bring them to the office before their appointment to meet the staff and familiarize themselves with the office. Children get anxious because of unfamiliar environments. Eliminate that factor by letting your youngsters meet the team and learn about the office surroundings without the pressure of their appointment.
Have your child accompany you to your dentist appointment. Much like teaching them how to brush and floss, your child can see there is nothing to worry about with a trip to the dentist because Mommy or Daddy are okay with it.
Pack a stuffed animal, favorite blanket, or other familiar object. The comfort of something familiar will help your child feel comfortable and less afraid in the unfamiliar environment of a dental office.
Hold your child’s hand at the appointment when the situation calls for it, but also be prepared to step back if the dentist feels like the two of them need some breathing room. Remember, our staff is specially trained for children as our patients, and we’ll take good care of your little one.
What Should I Do If We Miss My Child’s Dental Appointment?
We highly recommend making appointments every six months to see your child’s pediatric dentist. Try not to miss bi-annual dental appointments. One of the biggest risks of missed dental appointments is that minor dental issues can quickly become complex and expensive. Regular appointments are crucial to diagnosing and treating dental issues before they become serious, like tartar build-up and small cavities. Missing one appointment may not be a big deal, but make sure you reschedule it for sometime soon after the missed appointment.
Why Is My Child Afraid of the Dentist?
As noted earlier, you can allay your child’s possible fears of the dentist with a few tips ahead of your child’s first appointment.
Fear of New People & Strangers
In young children, a fear of new people and strangers is normal because they are unknown. Even if they’ve visited their pediatric dentist a few times already, they may not have met all of the reception staff or dental assistants. Our friendly staff do everything we can to let your child know that everything is okay.
Fear of Dental Tools
This fear is very common. Children might see the dental tools we use to clean their teeth as something harmful, especially if they can feel the scraping or vibrating. When your child sits down for their visit, they may want to see what the tools are. Our staff, including Dr. Scott, are well-trained to be friendly and to explain the tools we use to allay your child’s fears. We’ll even get them to crack a smile!
How to Allay Your Child’s Fear of the Dentist
There are some things you can do ahead of the actual appointment and during the appointment to allay your child’s fears of the dentist. We completely understand that this fear is natural.
- Feel free to ask to walk your child through the building to say hello and become familiar with the place.
- Tell your child about the appointment ahead of time to prepare them.
- Don’t use words like “shot,” “hurt,” or “pain.” Instead, allow the dental staff to introduce their own vocabulary to get your child through any problematic situations. A pediatric dentist’s office is trained to provide a comfortable and calm environment in case of dental anxiety.
- Avoid sharing your own negative dental stories. Instead, relay positive information and experiences.
- Avoid bribes because this might cause your child to wonder what will be so bad about the trip that they will deserve a treat for good behavior. Instead, praise your child after the procedure for their bravery. Praise helps to reinforce their good feelings instead of adding anxiety.
What Will My Child’s First Dental Appointment Be Like?
Before making your child’s first dental appointment, ensure that it is with a pediatric dentist you can trust. Remember, this first dental visit is crucial because it helps your child establish a comfortable rapport with their pediatric dentist.
First appointments are generally short and more laid back. It’s an opportunity for you and your child to meet their dentist, learn about the dentist’s office, and feel comfortable. Make sure to come prepared with any questions you might have for the dentist. We might perform a light cleaning, and Dr. Scott will look over your child’s mouth.
The initial appointment is the perfect time to ask your dentist all of the questions you might have. It’s also an opportunity for your pediatric dentist to give you pertinent information about your child’s dental care. You’ll discuss cavity prevention, developmental stages, nutrition, teething, and what to expect as teeth come in or start to get loose due to adult teeth developing.
You will also need to fill out forms with pertinent information, such as your child’s medical history, your contact information, and your dental insurance.
How Often Should My Child See Their Dentist?
Scheduling a biannual dental checkup allows your pediatric dentist to monitor developments in your child’s dental health. Even if your child has a perfectly healthy development pattern, changes in the conditions of the teeth and gums can happen very quickly. Checking every six months allows Dr. Scott to monitor and correct any potential problems.
A regularly scheduled meeting will allow your pediatric dentist to record and monitor ongoing orthodontic changes and development. Tooth and jaw development do not happen overnight, and if Dr. Scott understands your child’s oral health history, he will be better equipped to fix any development problems that may arise.
At around age 3, your child should be having comprehensive dental appointments that include fluoride treatments. X-rays normally begin at age 5 so that your pediatric dentist can check the teeth and jaw and make sure that there are no hidden issues occurring as adult teeth start to grow in the jaw.
Dental X-rays are often the only way to catch microcavities in your child’s baby teeth. Although these cavities may be pain-free, if left untreated, they can develop into serious tooth decay or even childhood periodontal disease. Dr. Scott will make recommendations if he sees anything that requires attention.
Regular visits to the pediatric dentist will allow your child to become comfortable at the dentist. They’ll become familiar with Dr. Scott and our pediatric staff here, and we’ll become familiar with you and your family.
Our pediatric dentist’s office is an excellent resource for the parents. By scheduling regular dental visits, we can help you with behaviors and dietary guidelines that can enhance oral hygiene and dental health, such as reducing sugar intake or helping you prevent your child from engaging in thumb-sucking.