Little girl at dentist holding a teddy bear and high fiving the dentist.

How to Prepare for Your Child's First Dental Visit

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Whether your baby's first tooth popped up this week or your toddler's finally ready to sit still for the dentist, you made your child's first dental appointment. Hooray! The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends scheduling a dental visit as soon as the child's first tooth appears. Still, it's never too late to take your kid to see the dentist. After you've completed the hard work of finding a kid-friendly dentist, you might wonder how to best prepare for your child's first dental visit. Check out these three simple steps and learn what you can expect once your kid's in the dental chair.

Step 1: Schedule the Dental Appointment

Try to schedule your child's first dentist appointment when they will be the least fussy, and make sure they are well-rested and fed before you arrive. While making the appointment, you can also ask about completing health history forms in advance and if the office will need any additional information to help limit the time waiting in the office. A quick call to your dental insurance provider can also confirm your coverage and determine if there will be any additional copays.

Step 2: Prepare for the Dental Appointment

A child's first dental visit should not be a surprise. Take some time to talk to your child about what will happen at the appointment. You can also read books or watch a television show about a friendly dental visit to help them visualize what it will be like. If your child is older, you can make a pretend trip to the dentist and practice opening their mouth wide to count their teeth. For more ambitious parents, the internet provides a variety of crafts to teach your children the importance of taking care of your teeth. Parents can also prepare for a child's first visit by completing any paperwork, writing down the child's medications, and making a list of any questions.

Step 3: Make the Dental Appointment Fun

Keeping a positive attitude and talking excitedly about the dental visit will go a long way in making your child feel comfortable instead of scared. However, if you sense your child is nervous, bring along a stuffed animal friend. The "friend" — or an older sibling — can go first, and the dental professional can demonstrate what will happen next or answer any of the child's questions. If your child still has dental anxiety, there are many things you can do to make them feel safe. Many dentists will provide a reward at the end of the appointment, but you may also want to pack a treat. Stickers, a new toothbrush, or a small toy all make great rewards.

What to Expect at Your Baby's First Dental Appointment

Depending on how comfortable — or wiggly — your child is, they may sit directly in the chair or in your lap. The dentist will check their jaw, teeth, and gums for proper development, cavities, or other issues. Either the dentist or dental hygienist will clean the child's teeth and provide education on how to properly take care of your child's teeth and gums. At the end of the appointment, the dentist can answer any questions you may have — from pacifier use to the best nutrition for healthy teeth.

Setting a positive precedent for dental appointments at an early age can help children create lifelong oral hygiene habits. By following these steps and taking the time to prepare for your child's first dental visit, you can help your child enjoy the dentist and look forward to future appointments.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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