Preparing for my child’s first dental visit

Dr Oh Xue Ling BDS (Adelaide)

Image by Renatalferro from Pixabay

Often, I get questions from young parents regarding their child’s dental health. The most common question being: Is my child too young to come to a dentist?

When can I start bringing my child to the dentist?

The first tooth to erupt in a child is their lower front tooth. This usually occurs at around 6 months of age. You can start bringing your child to their first dental visit around age 6 to 12 months for a quick check and to allow the dentist to assess any risk for decay and identify any bad habits early on.

It does not have to be a long appointment if the child is very young; it can even be timed together with the parent’s dental checkup, to get the child familiarised with the dental surroundings at an earlier age. This will make it easier for the child to receive treatments when they are older, and also to build up a positive relationship with the dentist.

Preparation prior to the dental clinic

It takes effort on both the dentist and the parents to ensure a pleasant experience for the child on their first dental visit. Planning is important. Before visiting the dentist, parents can slowly and gently assure the child.

Here are some tips:

  1. Reading to the child, or watching some videos on visiting the dentist. There are many books and child-friendly videos on dental visits, for example, there is an episode on Peppa Pig at the dentist! It is important to let them understand why we are going to the dentist, and have a general idea of what it will be like.
  2. Be very careful not to relate any dental fears you have to your child. This includes the child’s caregivers- do not let them recount scary tales of the dentist to your child.
  3. Use positive words and do not use words such as “drill”, “pain”, “blood”.
  4. Do not promise your child, for example by saying that there will be no drilling or that the dentist will “only look”. This limits the dentist in providing treatment if needed.
  5. Do not over prepare! Children are very quick at picking up cues, and they may become anxious if parents are constantly reminding them about their dental visit.
  6. Try to schedule morning appointments so they are not tired and grumpy.

What will happen for my child’s first visit?

If the child does not have any pain, the first visit is usually for the child to get acclimated to their surroundings. This will involve sitting in the dental chair, getting used to having the chair move up and down for checkups, introducing them to the equipment and counting their teeth together.

If the parents or older siblings are also having their regular dental check up at the same time, they can also be role models for the children (provided that they are calm!).

Image by Natalia Ovcharenko from Pixabay

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