Baby’s early months are full of firsts—first steps, first foods, and first words. Another first they should look forward to may surprise you: their first dentist visit. The American Dental Association recommends your child see the dentist shortly after the first tooth appears, but no later than his or her first birthday.
Baby teeth are going to last through childhood, and early appointments allow the dentist to look for any problems with their teeth, gums, or jaw, and instruct you in proper cleaning and snacking from the start. Create a favorable experience for your baby or toddler by following these steps for making their first visit positive and productive.
- Do Your Paperwork — Ask for the necessary patient forms ahead of time so you can fill them out in advance. This saves time in the waiting room and allows you to be present for your child while you wait to be called in.
- Time It Right — Don’t schedule the appointment during naptime, and make sure your child has eaten before you go. Set up your appointment during a time when it is most likely that your child will be comfortable, well rested, and in a good mood.
- Prepare Your Questions — Bring a list of any questions or concerns you have so you can discuss them with the dentist before the exam.
- Prepare the Dentist — Bring in your child’s medical history. Also, if the appointment is for restorative work (filling a cavity, for example), let the dentist know if your child is prone to fearful or stubborn reactions so he or she will know how to approach the situation.
For Your Child
- Talk about It — Give your child an idea of what to expect. Talk to them about why it’s important to go to the dentist. Discuss in calm, stress-free tones what they can expect at the dentist, and be sure to avoid scary words like “drills” or “needles.” Have them practice opening their mouth so the dentist can see their teeth.
- Be Positive — Keep your language upbeat—explain that the dentist is going to “look at” or “count” teeth. If you yourself have any anxieties around visiting the dentist, don’t share them with your children. Help them see the visit as fun and helpful.
- Study Up — Read books or watch videos together about their favorite characters who go to the dentist. Talk about how their experiences were positive.
- See an Appointment in Action — Consider having your child tag along on an older, more experienced sibling’s appointment to see what happens before they’re in the chair themselves.
- Bring Support — Have the child bring a favorite toy to hold for support during the exam.
- Brush Up — Brush your child’s teeth before the appointment, and avoid handing out snacks in the waiting room. Save them for after the visit.
Preparing well for these first visits will set your child up for a lifetime of positive checkups—and keep their smile healthy into adulthood.
Is it time for your child to have a checkup? Contact Oak Park Dental Group in Chicago today to set up an appointment.