According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first dental visit should be scheduled 6 months after the first tooth appears in the mouth or by their first birthday. This visit is primarily an exam to check that there is no decay present on the teeth, and to review with the parent the proper brushing techniques and nutritional counseling. Here are a few tips on preparing your child for their first dental visit.
Preparing your little one for their first visit is easy. Begin by telling your child that they are going to visit the dentist. A dentist is a special doctor that takes care of their teeth. Let them know that the dentist is going to look at all of their teeth. You can practice by opening your mouth really wide “like an alligator,” showing all of your teeth! Tell them
that the dentist is going to count how many teeth they have and at the end they will get a prize for doing such a good job. The prize is usually a sticker or a small toy. It is NEVER candy.
Set aside your personal fears and past experiences. Never say: “It’s not going to hurt.” In most cases the child hears “It’s going to hurt.” They do not necessarily hear the word “not.” It’s just like saying “please don’t stand on the chair” which they interpret as “Please stand on the chair.” Instead of telling them what you don’t want them to do, tell them what you want them to do: “Please sit down on the chair” is heard as “Sit down on the chair.”
Keep your description simple, short, and positive. Let the dental professionals be in charge of speaking to your child when you are in the operatory. Depending on the child’s personality they may cry. Keep in mind that just because they are crying does not necessarily mean that it is a “bad experience.” Remember nothing is bothering them, we are just looking, and sometimes a big cry is just what we need to take a good look inside their mouths. As soon as the exam is over the child will be sitting upright and they usually stop crying shortly thereafter. They will get their prize and….success! They have completed their first exam.
Have faith in your child. It has been my experience that even the most apprehensive children can have their first visit without shedding any tears at all. The bottom line is that most children love going to the dentist!