The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that children visit the dentist by their first birthday or within six months after his or her first tooth erupts. These early visits are critical for making sure your child’s smile is healthy and their oral development is on the right track. Additionally, starting dental visits at a young age can help reduce anxiety and make future visits less intimidating and more enjoyable.
With preparation, the first visit can be a smooth and positive experience for both you and your child. Here are some helpful tips to help you and your child prepare for a successful first dentist appointment.
How to Prepare for the First Visit
- Choose a practice that specializes in dentistry for kids – Pediatric dentists have the training and experience to handle the unique dental needs of children, such as thumb sucking, baby bottle tooth decay and infant tooth development. Their offices usually cater to small patients with fun games and activities in the waiting room or “prizes” at the end of every appointment.
- Tour the office—Once you schedule your child’s appointment, consider touring the office in advance. Introducing your child to the sights and sounds of a dentist’s office can go a long way to helping the child feel safe and comfortable.
- Choose the appointment time wisely- The first trip to the dentist will go more smoothly if your child is happy and well-rested. Avoid making appointments during naptime or regularly scheduled meals, as this could cause the child to feel tired or irritable, leading to a poor experience at the dentist.
- Practice at home—Leading up to the first visit, practice brushing with your child at home. Read books and watch videos about going to the dentist or even role play a trip to the dentist with a doll or stuffed animal. When your child knows what to expect, the first visit will feel less scary.
- Be a good role model— As the parent, you play an important role in helping your child understand the importance of good oral health from a very young age. Allow your child to watch you regularly brush or floss, and always talk positively about your own dental appointments.
What to Expect
The key to a successful first dentist appointment is to make it as relaxed and stress-free as possible. Often, an infant or toddler’s first appointment is a short and simple meeting at the office. This helps establish the dentist’s office as a safe and welcoming place. The staff may give you and your child a brief tour of waiting area and exam rooms. While you are there, the dentist can share tips on brushing and flossing, answer any questions you have and take a quick look inside the child’s mouth if the child feels comfortable.
Bottomline: Starting early dental appointments out on the right foot can help a child create lifelong oral hygiene habits and a healthy smile. When you take the extra time to prepare your child for their first appointment, you will play a vital role in helping your child enjoy future visits and take their oral health seriously for many years to come.
If you have questions or would like to schedule your child’s first dentist appointment at Smith Family Dentistry, give us a call at (973) 895-5111 or fill out our online appointment request form and our office will be in contact shortly!