More than 1 in 5 children 2-5 years old have had a cavity in their baby teeth. It’s a common problem that you can prevent by caring for their dental health as early as possible. 

Children begin to develop their teeth in the womb. It first shows up 6 weeks after conception.

There’s no agreed-on age for a first dental visit, but the consensus is that they should go as soon as their first tooth emerges.

Going to the dentist for the first time is a major milestone that can also be scary for your child. Read on to learn how to prepare them for it and help them maintain their dental health for the rest of their lives. 

Find the Right Pediatric Dentist

It may be tempting to schedule your child’s first dental visit in the same general practice you do. Find a pediatric dentist instead for better results.

It’s the 3rd-largest specialty area in the dental profession, accounting for 3.3% of all dentists. They have specialized training in how teeth grow and use specialized techniques to reduce your child’s anxiety. 

In most cases, the practice itself will also be designed for children. It’ll have bright colors, games, and toys to keep them calm and make them want to come back.

Do your research and compare all the options in your area. Make sure it’s the best one you can take your child to before you start preparing them to go there.

Pick the Right Time

Children’s moods can change in an instant. Be careful when choosing the time for their first dental visit.

Most children have more energy and are less testy at the beginning of the day. Don’t schedule the appointment too close to nap time or lunchtime when they could be sleepy or hungry. 

Reschedule if they do throw a tantrum all of a sudden. Taking them in kicking and screaming could give them a distaste for the dentist that lasts for years.

Talk Positively About It

A baby’s first dental visit won’t include much talking, but what about a first dental visit at age 2 or 3? They’ll listen and understand when you talk about it.

If you’re one of over 75% of adults who have fear or anxiety about the dentist, try not to let it show around them. Avoid words that make it seem like a negative experience such as “shots” or “pain.”

Explain what’s going to happen during their appointment simply and positively. Tell them that it’s okay to be nervous but that it’s a quick and easy process.

Wait until the day of the appointment to start telling them, though. This gives them less time for their imagination to run wild and gives them anxious thoughts about what could happen during the appointment.

Role Play, Read Books, and Watch Videos

Listening is one of the most important ways that children learn, but another is doing. There are plenty of options, and you can begin whenever you want so that your child gets used to the idea of a dentist.

Try role-playing with a few of their favorite toys. Have them take their favorite stuffed animal to a pretend dental office and brush its teeth. 

There’s a library full of books about going to the dentist you can read to them. There’s The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss, The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, Dentist Trip with Peppa Pig, and Elmo Visits the Dentist.  

Videos and games are also helpful. You can find them on YouTube or download apps on your phone.

Get an Office Tour

Checking out the office before the day of the appointment helps you make sure that it’s right for your child. It can also help them get used to it so that it doesn’t feel so scary.

You can even ask to let them meet the doctor so that your child won’t feel like they’re a stranger. It’s also the perfect time to tell them about any accommodations they need such as music or videos to keep them calm.

Arrive Early

Even the last few minutes before the appointment can help prepare and soothe your child. You should always make sure to arrive at least 10 minutes before your scheduled time.

This gives you enough time to fill out paperwork and take any other necessary steps before the appointment begins. Your child will also have enough time to get used to the office. 

Bring a Comfort Item

Most children have a favorite comfort item such as a blanket or stuffed animal. Let them bring it into the office with them and if you have time, play dentist with it.

Ask the dentist if they can bring it back to the chair. This will make them feel even more comfortable. 

Prepare Them for Follow-Ups

Preparing for one appointment is hard enough, but it’s only the first step. Start thinking about how your child will react to their next appointment once you leave the office. 

Let them know how brave they were for facing their fears. If they were worried about pain or shots, remind them that there weren’t any and won’t be next time. 

The dentist’s office should have a toy or other reward for them when they leave. Remind them that they’ll get another one next time. You can also set up a routine of taking them to their favorite store or giving them a treat after each appointment.  

Where to Go For Your Child’s First Dental Visit

Making your child’s first dental visit a positive experience sets them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth. Get them used to the idea of the dentist with games and books and tour the office so it feels familiar. 

Talk about the appointment in positive terms and arrive early. Let them bring comfort items to keep themselves calm.

Reward them once they get out of the chair. Set them up for future appointments by reminding them that their first was painless.

Prime Children’s Dentistry and Orthodontics is here to maintain your child’s oral health. Contact us for an appointment today.