Generally, infants should see the pediatric dentist around their first birthday, according to medical guidelines.  Parents with dental phobias can find first visits stressful.

As a parent, you must communicate positive messages about dental clinic visits (especially the first one) and make the experience as pleasant as possible for your child.

What should I do to prepare for my child's first dental clinic visit?

Children’s psychology is an integral part of pediatric dentistry training.  The dental offices of these companies are typically well-lit, colorful, and child-friendly, as well as equipped with a variety of games, toys, and educational materials.  The goal of pediatric dentists (and all dental staff) is to make the child feel as comfortable as possible during all dental visits.

Parents can make the first visit enjoyable by doing several things.  Here are some helpful tips:

Explain the situation in a positive manner

The purpose of the dental visit should be explained in a positive manner.  If the dentist “helps to keep teeth healthy,” that is much better than saying “he is checking for tooth decay, and if decay is found, he might need to drill the tooth.”

Bring another adult with you to the visit –

Infants may become fussy when their mouths are examined.  Another adult can soothe the infant while the parent asks questions and listens to advice from the dentist.

Don’t use threatening language

A pediatric dentist and his staff are trained to avoid using threatening language, like drills, needles, injections, and bleeding.  Parents should use positive language when discussing dental treatment with their children.

Keep other children at home

Parents can be distracted and the infant can fuss if there are other children around.  The first visit can be made less stressful for everyone if other children are left at home (when possible).

Describe what will happen

A child’s anxiety can be greatly reduced if he or she knows what to expect.  Children’s books about visiting a dentist can be an effective means of helping make the experience more enjoyable for them. The following books have been recommended by parents and dentists:

  • Going to the Dentist – by Anne Civardi.
  • The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist – by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
  • Elmo Visits the Dentist – Part of the “Sesame Street” Series.
  • Show Me Your Smile: A Visit to the Dentist – Part of the “Dora the Explorer” Series.

During the first visit, what will happen?

The purpose of the first dental visit is to accomplish several objectives.  A child and a pediatric dentist should first become acquainted.  To determine the child’s overall health history, the dentist needs to monitor tooth and jaw development.  Third, the dentist must assess the health of the existing teeth and gums.  Finally, the dentist will answer parents’ questions and advise them on how to implement a good dental hygiene routine.

Following is a typical sequence of events during an initial “well baby checkup ”:

  1. Parents and children will be greeted by the dental staff.
  2. A review of the infant’s and family’s medical history will be conducted (this may include questionnaires).
  3. As part of the examination, more questions will be asked about the child’s oral habits, use of pacifiers, general development, tooth alignment, tooth development, and diet.
  4. Dentists will provide advice regarding oral health, the prevention of oral injury, fluoride intake, and the use of sippy cups.
  5. An examination of the infant’s teeth will be conducted. Generally, the dentist and parent sit side by side.  Infants are positioned on the dentist’s lap with their heads cradled.  By placing the infant in this position, the parent is able to see the infant during the examination.
  6. Questions and concerns of parents will be addressed by the pediatric dentist.
  7. Demonstrations of brushing and flossing will be provided.
  8. A detailed description of the child’s oral health will be provided, along with specific recommendations.  There are usually recommendations regarding oral habits, appropriate toothpastes and toothbrushes for the child, orthodontically appropriate pacifiers, and dietary recommendations.
  9. It will be explained by the dentist which teeth may appear in the coming months.
  10. A dentist will outline an appointment schedule and explain what will take place during the next visit.

Contact the pediatric dentist if you have any questions or concerns regarding the first dental visit for your child.

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