Your Child’s First Dental Visit: 5 Things You Can Do to Make it a Success
Tips for Preparing Your Child’s First Dental Visit and Each Visit After:
Do you have tots with tiny teeth in your home, or are you expecting soon? Are you a teacher, or caregiver for babies, toddlers, or preschoolers? Here are 5 great tips you can share with parents or do starting right now to help those little ones learn to love taking care of their teeth, and have a great experience at dental check-up visits.
#1: 1st Tooth or 1st Birthday = 1st Dental Check-Up Visit
Are you wondering when your child’s first dental visit should be? You’re not alone. We get that question very often.
Those early months and years for babies and toddlers are filled with firsts! The best time to start taking kids for dental check-ups is either when their first tooth erupts, or right around their first birthday. While some pediatricians do a basic check in the mouth, not all do, and dentists are trained to immediately identify any potential issues with the growth and development of the jaw and soft palate. Baby teeth are more porous and susceptible to decay than adult teeth. Early intervention is critical to help ensure those tiny teeth stay healthy.
If your child is a little bit older and hasn’t yet had their first dental visit, it’s never too late. Bring them in as soon as you can!
We also recommend that parents start brushing their child’s teeth as soon as they start coming in, using a soft bristled or baby-safe toothbrush and plain water. The easiest way to create healthy, lasting toothbrushing habits is to start early and be consistent. Check out our helpful toothbrushing guide for children for more information and tips, and read more here about what you can expect at those first dental check-up visits.
#2: Let’s Talk Teeth!
It’s never too soon to start introducing children to toothbrushing and oral health. The best time to get started is before your child’s first dental visit. Children love to learn about their bodies, and love to smile, touch, and explore new things. Many parents and caregivers love to teach children to point to their own eyes, nose, belly button. Why not add “teeth” and “tongue” to that list? There are also a variety of baby and child-friendly books, crafts, activities, songs, and even apps that can help teach little ones about teeth, toothbrushing, dentists, and healthy smiles. The more comfortable they are with their mouth and teeth, the easier your child’s first dental visit will be.
Do you have any favorite activities you use as a parent, caregiver, dental professional, or educator? We’d love to know – please share your ideas in the comments.
#3: Practice Makes Perfect
Toothbrushing is an important part of our daily self-care and grooming habits, and just like other habits, babies and toddlers learn as they become more independent. A great way to introduce little ones to toothbrushing is to make it a group activity! Parents and siblings can brush their teeth “together” with little ones. It is important to note, though, that toothbrushes are tools, not toys, and that babies and toddlers should be closely supervised. Little ones can practice the motions of brushing their teeth, but ultimately an adult will need to brush properly.
Let’s face it – babies and toddlers are not always cooperative and there may be lots of other things a little one would rather do. We suggest using a “First this, then that” approach to encourage participation. For example, “First, we’ll brush our teeth, then we’ll play a game.” This way, the toothbrushing routine becomes a positive part of the day, and followed by another fun experience.
There are all kinds of songs for routines like washing our hands and picking up our toys – but what about songs about brushing teeth? As a matter of fact, we have a few.
#4: (Your) Attitude Matters
Babies and toddlers, just like older children, are very perceptive and sensitive to the attitudes and energy of those around them. Children often mirror our behavior. When we are relaxed and happy, children are more likely to be relaxed, too. Children are also more relaxed when they are prepared.
Spend time talking to children (yes, even babies and toddlers) about visiting the dentist. Is there a special “going to the dentist” outfit to pick out, or book to bring? You can also spend time reading about visiting the dentist and talking about what the dentist will do in a positive way. “The dentist will count your teeth,” or “We will show the dentist what a great job you do when you brush.” Older siblings can also help in this area, to serve as a good role model and to talk in a positive way about visiting the dentist for a check-up. You can bring your little one to dental visits to get them used to the sights and sounds of a dental office, and to help them prepare for their own visit.
#5: Choose a great dental office that you trust
We mentioned in #4 how important it is to have a positive attitude to help a little one feel more relaxed and comfortable. The best way to ensure a positive experience is for YOU to have a positive experience, too. That’s why it’s so important to select a dental office and provider that you trust and feel comfortable with. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a great dentist and dental clinic for your child:
- Conveniently located near your home, school, or work – children are at their best when they are well-rested and fresh. It helps to find a dental office that is convenient so that getting to and from visits is easy.
- Flexible appointments: We’re all busy, and it helps when you can find early morning, evening and even weekend appointment times that fit your schedule, including family appointments. The convenience of online booking is also helpful!
- Caring, compassionate, experienced staff and doctors: Dentists, hygienists and staff should not only have experience in pediatric dental techniques and services, but they should also love what they do, and it should show.
- Kid-friendly facilities: Dental check-ups don’t have to be scary. They can be fun! Child-oriented dental exam rooms, as well as positive behavioral reinforcement techniques and post-visit rewards are all great ways to help ensure that each office visit is a great success.