Most adults know to practice good oral hygiene at home and visit their dentist twice a year for checkups. But kids should also start seeing a dentist or pediatric dentist long before all their adult teeth come in. A lot of parents, however, are already fearful of the dentist (probably from their own experiences as kids!) and cartoons and TV shows often portray dentists as scary or evil characters. It can be tough to get your child to want to go to the dentist, let alone excited about it!
How to Help Your Kids Prepare For their First Pediatric Dentist Visit
So how do you prepare your child for their very first trip to the dentist? What age should you start thinking about taking your child to the dentist? And what happens at that first visit anyway?
We have all these answers and more to help you navigate that all-important first pediatric dental check-up!
Get Started Early
It’s literally never too early to prepare your child for their first dental visit. In fact, before they even have teeth, you can “brush” your baby’s gums. Simply take a soft, damp cloth and run it gently over the surface of their gums. This likely even feels good for very young children, especially when they begin teething.
Once your child has sprouted their first few teeth, you can begin brushing them. Use a baby toothbrush (the bristles will be extra soft) and gently move it in little circles on your baby’s teeth. No need to scrub!
In the next few years as your child improves their motor skills, you can establish a twice-daily brushing routine with them. Perhaps you all brush your teeth at the same time, or play a fun song. During these times, you can begin introducing the topic of the dentist in a fun and exciting way. Try saying things like, “We have to keep our teeth nice and healthy so we can show Dr. Smith we’re doing a good job!” or “The dentist will be so happy with your smile!”
Even if you still feel anxious about visiting the dentist as an adult, it’s important to put on a brave face for your kids. Try to avoid voicing your own fears or taking your child back to the exam room with you if you’re having a difficult procedure done. Always speak about the dentist in a positive way; your kids will notice!
Before Their First Pediatric Dental Appointment
The American Dental Association recommends taking your child for their first dental visit by age 1, or within six months of their first tooth erupting. These early visits are a great way for your pediatric dentist, the staff and your child to get to know and trust one another. Visits at this age will typically be very short and are designed so you can ask questions and the pediatric dentist can monitor your child for any potential issues.
By the time your child is a toddler and can interact more with their pediatric dentist and staff, you can try preparing them to sit through the appointment on their own. Many pediatric dentistry practices have kid-friendly chairs and instruments for this very purpose. Make it sound like a fun, grown up adventure ahead of time. If you’ve been visiting this same dentist for a while, you can remind them of their favorite staff member or mention the doctor by name.
No matter how you approach those first visits, they are in some ways the most important dental visits of your child’s life. They will help set the tone for a lifetime of regular visits and great oral hygiene, so it’s important to try to get it right. If they feel scary to your child or you appear anxious, future visits might be more difficult.
We recommend talking regularly about the dentist and healthy smiles in a fun and routine way. Try to never “surprise” your child with a dental visit. Instead, bring up the visit regularly once it’s scheduled and talk with your child about what to expect.
If your child seems especially anxious, call your pediatric dentist and ask if your child can first come in for a visit that doesn’t include an exam. Have a staff member walk your child around the office. Let them see and walk through an exam room (if possible). Perhaps the staff member will allow your child to “take a ride” in a dental chair or hold a dental mirror. If there is time, introduce or reintroduce your child to their pediatric dentist. Remind your child that you will be back in a few weeks and can tell the dentist about their vacation, or school or their favorite toy.
Many dental practices are happy to help you with tips and tricks to calm your anxious child. After all, they want the appointment to go well, too!
At Their First Pediatric Dental Visit
If you begin taking your child to the dentist at age one (or six months after their first teeth erupt), those first few visits are typically quick and easy. The pediatric dentist will take a look to make sure everything is developing within normal limits, and answer any questions you have.
Once your child turns three, your pediatric dentist may recommend their first set of x-rays, or begin talking to you about sealants. Their dental checkups will begin to more closely resemble yours, with time for cleaning, an exam from the pediatric dentist, and any recommendations for future treatment or visits.
Between ages 6 and 8, your pediatric dentist might mention orthodontics for the first time. At this age, your child’s front adult teeth and first adult molars have erupted. For children who might have more difficult orthodontic concerns, some pediatric dentists and orthodontists may want to start treatment before all their adult teeth erupt.
After age 8 and throughout their teens, your pediatric dentist will continue to monitor your child for how their remaining baby teeth fall out, how new adult teeth erupt and their general oral hygiene. They may need fillings at some point, or your dentist may recommend sealants. But with good home care, and regular dental visits, your child may get to enjoy relatively “boring” checkups.
Remember: The above information should be used as general guidelines and should not be substituted for medical advice. If you have questions about your child’s oral health, you should contact our skilled pediatric dentists right away for a dental exam.
Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and should not be substituted for medical advice. Contact our skilled dentists for a dental exam or professional medical advice.
Professional Pediatric Dentistry in Columbus Ohio
We are proud to offer professional pediatric dentistry, teeth cleaning and sealants for children in Central Ohio. Contact us today to learn more about pediatric dentistry for your child!