According to AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) guidelines, infants should initially visit the pediatric dentist around the time of their first birthday. It is extremely important for parents to continually communicate positive messages about dental visits and to help the child overcome the fear about visiting the dentist.
How can I prepare for my child’s first dental visit?
Pediatric dentists are required to undergo extensive training in child psychology. Their dental offices are generally colorful, child-friendly, and boast a selection of games, toys, and educational tools. Pediatric dentists aim to make the child feel as welcome and comfortable as possible during all visits.
Some helpful tips for the parents are these:
Take another adult along for the visit – Sometimes infants become fussy when having their mouths examined. Having another adult along to soothe the infant allows the parent to ask questions and to attend to any advice the dentist may have.
Leave other children at home – Other children can distract the parent and cause the infant to fuss.
Avoid threatening language – Pediatric dentists and staff are trained to avoid the use of threatening language, like drills, needles, injections, and bleeding. Try to do the same.
Provide positive explanations – It is important to explain the purposes of the dental visit in a positive way.
Explain what will happen – Anxiety can be reduced if the child knows what to expect.
The use of books can be very helpful. 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:
- The pediatric dentist and the child need to get properly acquainted.
- The dentist needs to monitor tooth and jaw development to get an idea of the child’s overall health history.
- The dentist needs to evaluate the health of the existing teeth and gums.
- The dentist aims to answer questions and advise parents on how to implement a good oral care regimen.
The following sequence of events is typical of an initial checkup:
- Dental staff will greet the child and parents.
- The infant/family health history will be reviewed , some questionnaires might be included
- The pediatric dentist 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 dentist will provide advice on good oral care, how to prevent oral injury, fluoride intake, and sippy cup use.
- The infant’s teeth will be examined. Generally, the dentist and parent sit facing each other. The infant is positioned so that his or her head is cradled in the dentist’s lap.
- Good brushing and flossing demonstrations will be provided.
- The state of the child’s oral health will be described in detail, and specific recommendations will be made.
- The dentist will detail which teeth may appear in the following months.
- The dentist 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 the pediatric dentist.