According to AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) guidelines, infants should initially visit your dental health care provider around the time of their first birthday. 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 a dental health care provider.
How can I prepare for my child’s first dental visit?
There are several things parents can do to make the first visit enjoyable. Some helpful tips are listed below:
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. Leaving other children at home (when possible) makes the first visit less stressful for all concerned.
Provide positive explanations – It is important to explain the purposes of the dental hygiene visit in a positive way. Explaining that the dental hygienist “helps keep teeth healthy” is a good way to explain the visit.
Explain what will happen – Anxiety can be vastly reduced if the child knows what to expect. Age-appropriate books about visiting a dental healthcare provider can be very helpful in making the visit seem fun.
Here is a list of parent and dental health care provider-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 hygiene visit. First, the dental hygienist and the child need to get properly acquainted. Second, the dental hygienist needs to monitor tooth and jaw development to get an idea of the child’s overall health history. Third, the dental hygienist needs to evaluate the health of the existing teeth and gums. Finally, the dental hygienist 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 “well baby checkup”:
Dental staff will greet the child and parents.
The infant/family health history will be reviewed (this may include questionnaires).
The dental 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 dental hygienist 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 dental hygienist and parent sit facing each other. The infant is positioned so that his or her head is cradled in the dental hygienist's lap. This position allows the infant to look at the parent during the examination.
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. Recommendations usually relate to oral habits, appropriate toothpaste and toothbrushes for the child, and diet.
The dental hygienist will detail which teeth may appear in the following months.
The dental 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.
We encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Please call our office or use the quick contact form below.
1454 King St. East