Child's First Dentist Visit Pediatric Dentist Exam Room 3

The Complete Guide to Your Child’s First Dentist Visit

The dentist. *cue dread and doom*. (I apologize to any dentist reading this) Dentists are scary even for adults, not to mention toddlers! We all celebrate the milestone of a first tooth, but as parents, we forget that a dentist appointment should soon follow.

This blog post will go over when a baby/toddler should visit the dentist for the first time, what to expect at that visit, and how to prepare you and your child. So after you’re done celebrating that first tooth, read this blog post and then call your dentist!

When should a child visit the dentist for the first time

Every child sees their pediatrician within days of being in this world and sees them a handful of times before their first birthday. But what about the dentist? According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it is recommended that a child go to the dentist by the age of 1 or within six months after their first tooth erupts. After the first visit to the dentist, regular check-ups should be scheduled every six months. 

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Two little teeth are starting to stick out! Time to see the dentist!

Why is dental care important for baby teeth?

Even though the baby teeth will eventually fall out and make way for adult teeth, regular dental visits now are important for your child’s oral health. Baby teeth are very important to your child’s health and development. They are necessary for a baby to start speaking and chewing.

They also save space for the child’s future permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth could drift into that space, making it difficult for other permanent teeth to find room when they start to come in. This can lead to crooked or crowded teeth.

Thus, good oral hygiene care is very important, even at such a young age!

Child's First Dentist Visit Why
Lily knows the importance of starting oral hygiene early!

Pediatric dentist vs. Regular dentist

When booking your child’s first dentist visit, you have the choice of choosing your own family dentist or a pediatric dentist. Here are some differences between the two to help guide your decision:

Similar to a pediatrician, a pediatric dentist has extra specialized training. They have at least 2 more years of training beyond dental school.
Because of this extra training, pediatric dentists have more knowledge on the treatment and management of children’s developing teeth, child behavior, and the common dental problems in pediatric patients
The offices and staff of pediatric dentists are geared to care for children and put them at ease. The decor may be colorful with cute play areas and toys. The tools may also be “dressed up” so they are less scary-looking.

We chose a pediatric dentist for Remy and we have been pleased with our experiences so far. Each exam room was decorated with a certain playful theme that captivated Remy’s interest and put him at ease. All of the staff were really friendly and were very knowledgeable in how to care for kids. 

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The waiting room of our pediatric dentist is completely kid-friendly, down to the little chairs and interactive games!
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Each exam room had a specific theme that was bright and inviting!

What to expect when going to the dentist for the first time

The first visit to the dentist will most likely be short and involve very little treatment. This is so the dentist can be introduced to your child in a friendly manner and start the relationship off in a positive way.

They may check your little one’s existing teeth for decay or cavities and clean any teeth, if necessary. The dentist will also most likely ask you about your child’s oral habits, such as any thumb sucking, their nutrition, and developmental milestones, including teething.

They will then probably discuss oral health care basics with you and explain good oral hygiene practices for your child’s teeth and gums. 

Prior to going to the dentist, be sure to write down any questions you can think of so that you can discuss near the end of the child’s dental visit.

Child's First Dentist Visit Pediatric Dentist Exam
Even though Remy looks terrified, our pediatric dentist was
very calming and knew how to deal with toddlers!

How to prepare your child for their first dentist visit

So now that you know when the first dentist visit should be and what you can expect, how do you go about preparing you and your child for the appointment? Here are some ideas that you can implement in the weeks and days leading up to the first dentist visit:

Play dentist with each other! Use your fingers to count each other’s teeth so that your child will be familiar with the feel of a dental exam. Explain what may happen and how a dentist looks at our teeth.
Pretend play with a favorite stuffed animal. Encourage your child to do the same as above but with their stuffed animals. Have all of the favorites lined up, waiting for their turn in the dentist chair!
Take your child to your own dentist appointment. This will depend on how old your child is and how aware they are to the world around them. Be sure to tell your dentist before doing this to make sure they can accommodate the two of you. You can explain what’s going on as it’s happening (or the dentist can if your mouth is otherwise occupied), so that your child becomes familiar with the process. 
Read a picture book about going to the dentist. Incorporate a children’s book on this topic into your regular reading routine. This can remind them that going to the dentist is a normal thing and that it is important! Check out our favorite books below!
Similar to a picture book, you can watch children’s shows that focus on a trip to the dentist. Be sure to watch with your child so you can talk through the process with them and answer any questions or concerns they may have. Here are some good starting points for cartoons that show a visit to the dentist. Below is the video we showed to Remy before his first dentist visit.
Finally, talk to your child about visiting the dentist. Listen to their concerns and avoid using scary words, like “pain” or “hurt”. Instead, assure them that dentists make sure our teeth are healthy and happy.

How to care for your child’s teeth at home

Between visits to the dentist, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene habits at home for everyone, including your child! Ask your dentist how to care for those tiny chompers at home. Here is an idea on how to take care of those little teeth:

Newborns and Infants – Use a clean and moist washcloth to wipe gums and mouth clean after the first feeding in the morning and right before bed. This will help wipe away bacteria and sugars.
Toddlers <2 years old – When teeth start to come in, brush twice a daily (morning and night) with a soft, small-bristled toothbrush and plain water. Consult with your dentist or doctor about using fluoride toothpaste.
Children >2 years old – Brush teeth twice a day (morning and night) with fluoride toothpaste. Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always have them spit out the toothpaste rather than swallow. You may need to help your child brush until they develop good brushing skills. 

Pro Tip: Have your child choose their toothbrush when shopping so they get excited about oral hygiene! They can choose ones with their favorite color or character!

Popular Picks for Toddler Toothbrushes/Toothpaste

Final thoughts

In conclusion, your child’s first visit to the dentist doesn’t have to be scary! As long as you prepare you and your child in advance, it can be a positive experience. In fact, Remy absolutely LOVES going to the dentist, but probably because all of the staff pay him special attention. ???? (Don’t tell him that they do this with all the kids!) 

Hopefully this post will put you at ease and help set the expectations for dentist visits. Let me know in the comments below how you plan on preparing your child for their first dentist visit! Do you prefer picture books or pretend play or both?

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