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How to Help Your Child Through Their First Visit to the Dentist

Regular visits to the dentist are important not just to your child’s dental health but also to their overall well-being. Establishing a good relationship with a dentist early on will ensure your child develops good oral hygiene from the beginning, potentially saving them from costly procedures down the line.

Your child’s first visit to the dentist doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. In fact, with the right attitude, it can be quite fun! Let’s take a look at a few ways to ensure that first visit — and all that follow — are exactly that.

Know When to Go

While you want to get started early, you won’t be surprised to learn that there’s not much point in heading to the dentist’s before your child gets their first tooth. However, if it’s slow to poke through, you should at the very least visit around your child’s first birthday so that the dentist can do an overall inspection of the gums and jaw.

Pick the Right Dentist for You

When choosing a dentist for your child, it’s important to pick someone who has experience with children and who is sure to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Whether they specialize in kids dentistry and beyond or provide dental services to all ages, it is important that the dentist you choose recognizes the unique dynamics involved in caring for a child. Judging this can mean simply checking out the dentist’s website to see whether or not they offer separate services for children, talking to the staff on the phone while booking, or coming in for a first appointment to see what you think. Don’t settle until you’ve found the right person for your child, as you want coming to the dentist to be as pleasant as possible.

Bring a Positive Attitude to That First Appointment

The sound of a dentist’s drill may have meaning to you, but to your child? They won’t know the difference between that sound and that of an engine’s motor unless you tell them. Your child is bound to pick up on whatever emotions you bring to the appointment, so keep them positive, pleasant and low-key. As far as your child is concerned, this could be a visit to the car wash, and we want to keep that neutral attitude as long as possible.

Know What Will Happen

Your child’s first visit to the dentist will be as low-key as they come. Think of it more like a meet n’ greet. The dentist and his or her staff will come out to say hello and do a very brief, initial exam in which they’ll take a peek at your child’s gum, jaw and bite and also hunt for any decay (unlikely to be present at this age). You may be asked to hold your child in the seat, or to wait in the waiting room so that your child can develop a relationship on his or her own (though this is often left until a few visits in at least). The visit shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes, so don’t get out your Kindle quite yet.

Be Ready for Next Time

From there, the dentist or oral hygienist will go over a few easy dental hygiene tips; yes, even though those baby teeth won’t stick around for long, it’s still important to brush and ensure the gums are healthy. Now is also the time to let your dentist know about any thumb sucking, and the dentist will be happy to let you know about how you can help your toddler through teething.

The Takeaway

With a good attitude and a low-key approach, going to the dentist can be as natural as going to the grocery store. Get it right, and you’ll be setting your child up for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.