Tips to Help Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment Go Smoothly

Good oral health habits are engrained early on in life, which is why it’s so important to teach your child how to take care of their teeth from a young age. This includes taking them to the dentist for regular dental checkups.

But when it’s time to take your child to their first-ever dental appointment, it can be a scary and confusing time for them if they are not prepared for what to expect.

So to ensure your child’s first dentist appointment goes smoothly, here are some tips to help promote good oral hygiene habits with your kids and prepare your child for their first trip to the dentist.

The Importance of Developing Good Oral Hygiene Habits Early On

Oral hygiene for kids is incredibly important, and it should start at a young age to develop good habits that will last and keep their teeth healthy.

Baby teeth will last for up to 13 years and hold the space for permanent teeth, plus, decay in baby teeth increases the risk of decay in permanent teeth. Therefore it’s critical that they are well taken care of.

When to Start Brushing Kids’ Teeth

You should start brushing your child’s teeth when their first tooth appears. Use a small, soft toothbrush and a tiny amount of baby toothpaste—about the size of a rice grain.

After age 3, when your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste after brushing instead of swallowing, you can use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Help your child brush their teeth until age 7 or 8. And teach them to do it themselves by having them watch you brush your teeth and follow the same brushing pattern.

Other Oral Health Tips for Kids

To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, don’t give your child a bottle of milk—or juice or any sweetened drink—when putting them down for a nap or at bedtime. And limit the time your child has a bottle. They should empty their bottle in 6 minutes or less.

Also, avoid giving your child foods that will increase tooth decay, such as:

  • Fruit leather
  • Hard or sticky candies
  • Sweetened drinks and juice

Instead, give your child fruit instead of juice. Fruit is fibrous and tends to scrape the teeth clean, while juice is full of sugar.

At What Age Should You Take Your Child to The Dentist?

If you’re wondering when to take your child to the dentist for the first time, remember the sooner, the better. Book the appointment either within six months of your baby cutting their first tooth or by one year of age, whichever comes first.

Taking your child to the dentist early on is very beneficial, as your dentist will be able to teach you how to brush your child’s teeth properly and prepare tooth-friendly snacks and meals. Your dentist will also check for and prevent any dental issues. And your child will get more comfortable with visiting the dentist if they start at a young age, making future visits easier.

What to Expect During Your Child’s First Dentist Visit

During your child’s first visit, your dentist will teach you proper gum and tooth care for babies.

If your child is older, this visit may include a full exam of the teeth, gums, jaws, bite, and oral tissues. And if needed, the dentist might gently clean your child’s teeth to remove plaque, tartar, and stains.

After formally introducing your child to their dentist, the dentist will:

  • Explain each step of the checkup
  • Show the tools they will be using
  • Reassure your child—e.g. letting your child sit on your lap if they get nervous
  • Use a model to explain cavities, show your child how to brush properly, and demonstrate any procedures they are doing
  • Count and examine your child’s teeth
  • Clean and polish your child’s teeth
  • Apply topical fluoride
  • Let your child pick a toothbrush to bring home

Tips for Preparing Your Child for the Dentist

Here are tips to help make your child’s first dentist appointment go smoothly:

Examine Your Child at Home

If you take the time to examine your child’s mouth at home, they will be more comfortable with their dentist doing the same thing.

The best way to do this is to sit facing another adult, with your knees touching, and lay your baby on the other adult’s lap to give you a good view of inside their mouth.

Enforce a Strict Dental Routine at Home

You can start a dental routine at home, even when your baby doesn’t have any teeth yet. After meals, wipe their gums gently with a wet, clean washcloth. And use a small, soft toothbrush to stimulate their mouth. Doing this regularly will help prepare your child for what’s to come at their first dental appointment.

Bring Your Child to Your Own Appointment

You can help your child become familiar with the setting and staff of a dental office by bringing them along to your own dental appointments. Bring another adult along too so they can watch your child while you’re in the dentist’s chair.

Explain What the Dentist is and What Will Happen at the Appointment

Soon before your child’s appointment, explain who the dentist is and what will happen at the appointment using words your child can understand.

You can play dentist at home with a doll or stuffed animal. And say things like, “The tooth doctor will look at and count your teeth and show you how to keep your smile healthy.”

Avoid mentioning, “It’s not going to hurt,” or other words related to pain, because that will introduce the possibility that something could hurt at the dentist and lead to dental anxiety.

Make it a Positive Experience

When talking about the dentist with your child beforehand and on the day of their first visit, stay positive with an upbeat mood. If you have a positive attitude and treat the visit like an exciting but simple routine, your child will be more likely to go into the situation with a positive attitude as well.

Schedule the Appointment Strategically

Book your child’s dentist appointment at a time when your child is well-rested and typically in a good mood. You don’t want to bring them when they are hungry, tired, and cranky. So consider bringing them in the morning, or after a nap and a meal.

Also, avoid giving them sugar or any food with caffeine before the visit. And try to arrive early so they can play in the waiting room and become accustomed to the environment.

Watch Videos or Read Books about the Dentist

Search for kids’ videos and books about visiting the dentist, preferably with some of your child’s favourite characters. Positive-sounding videos and books about dental appointments will help prepare your child by giving them an idea of what to expect and in a fun story that your child will enjoy.

Starting your kids’ oral health routine at a young age will help them develop lasting habits that will keep their teeth strong and healthy, even in adulthood. And if you help prepare your child for their first visit to the dentist, they’ll be more comfortable with dental visits now and in the future.