Your child’s first visit to the dentist can be extremely stressful. It is important for parents to continually communicate positive messages about dental visits, especially the first one, in order to help their child feel as happy and as comfortable as possible about visiting the dentist. We have prepared a few suggestions to help you prepare for your first visit to our office in Staunton, Virginia.

How can I prepare for my child’s first dental appointment?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, infants should initially visit a pediatric dentist at about the time of their first birthday. Pediatric dentists generally maintain offices that are colorful, child-friendly, and have a selection of games, toys, and educational tools to help children remain relaxed and keep them entertained. Additionally, pediatric dentists are required to undergo extensive training in child psychology. All dental staff aim to make children feel as welcome as possible during their visit.

There are several things parents can to do help make their child’s first visit enjoyable. These include:

  • Take another adult with you to the appointment. Sometimes infants become fussy while having their mouths examined. Having another adult present to help soothe the child allows the parent to ask questions and listen to any advice the dentist may have.
  • Leave other children at home whenever possible. Other children can distract the parent and cause the infant to fuss. Leaving other children at home can make the first visit significantly less stressful for everyone.
  • Avoid threatening language. Pediatric dentists and staff are trained to avoid use of words such as “drills,” “needles,”, “injections,” and “bleeding.” Parents are encouraged to avoid these phrases as well, and maintain positive, non-threatening language when speaking about dental treatment with their child.
  • Provide positive explanations. Along with avoiding threatening language, it is important to explain the purpose of a dental visit in a positive way. For example, tell your child that the dentist “helps keep your teeth healthy,” rather than saying that the dentist is “checking for tooth decay and might need to drill the tooth if decay is found.”
  • Explain what will happen. Telling your child what to expect in advance will greatly reduce anxiety. Age-appropriate books are often a great tool to help your child know what to expect and make visiting the dentist seem fun. Some books we recommend are:
    • The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, by Stan and Jan Berenstain
    • Show Me Your Smile: A Visit to the Dentist, part of the “Dora the Explorer” series
    • Going to the Dentist, by Anne Civardi
    • Elmo Visits the Dentist, part of the “Sesame Street” series

What will happen during my child’s first appointment?

There are several goals we seek to accomplish during your child’s first visit.

First, the pediatric dentist and your child will need to be properly acquainted.

Second, the dentist will need to monitor tooth and jaw development to get an idea of your child’s overall health history.

Third, the pediatric dentist will need to evaluate the health of your child’s existing teeth and gums.

Finally, the dentist will answer questions and advise parents on good oral health habits for their child.

A typical pediatric dental checkup will likely include the following actions:

  • Dental staff will greet the child and parents
  • The infant and family’s heath history will be reviewed (this may include questionnaires)
  • A pediatric dentist will address parental questions and concerns
  • Questions will be asked about the child’s oral habits, pacifier use, general development, tooth alignment and development, and diet
  • The dentist will provide advice on good oral care, and recommendations on how to prevent oral injury, fluoride intake, and the use of sippy cups
  • Good brushing and flossing demonstrations will be provided
  • The child’s teeth will be examined
  • The child’s current oral health will be described in detail, and more specific recommendations will be made, generally regarding oral habits, appropriate toothbrushes and toothpastes, pacifiers, and diet
  • The dentist will make not of which teeth may appear in coming months
  • The dentist will create an appointment schedule and describe what will happen in your next visit

If you have questions about your child’s first dental appointment, please contact our office. Dr. Justin Karrel and our staff are always happy to help you.