Your Child’s First Dental Visit

When should my child first see a dentist, and why?
The ideal time is when your child’s first (primary) teeth come in, typically between 18 and 24 months of age. As a general recommendation, wait no longer than age two. This 19 to 24 month age window is an ideal time for the dentist to carefully examine the development of your child’s mouth. Because dental problems often start early, the sooner the visit the better. To safeguard against problems such as baby bottle tooth decay, teething irritations, gum disease, and prolonged thumb-sucking, the dentist can provide or recommend special preventive care.

How do I prepare my child and myself for the visit?
Before the visit, ask the dentist about the procedures of the first appointment so there are no surprises. Plan a course of action for either reaction to your child may exhibit – cooperative or non-cooperative. Very young children may be fussy and not sit still. Talk to your child about what to expect, and build excitement as well as understanding about the upcoming visit. Bring with you to the appointment any records of your child’s complete medical history.

What will happen on the first visit?
Many first visits are nothing more than introductory ice-breakers to acquaint your child with the dentist and the practice. If the child is frightened, uncomfortable or non-cooperative, a rescheduling may be necessary. Patience and calm on the part of the parent and reassuring communication with your child are very important in these instances. Short, successive visits are meant to build the child’s trust in the dentist and the dental office, and can prove invaluable if your child needs to be treated late for any dental problem. Appointments for children should always be scheduled earlier in the day, when your child is alert and fresh. Parents are always welcome in the treatment rooms. However, it has been our experience in some instances that the child does better without the parent present. For children under 24-36 months, the parent may need to sit in the dental chair and hold the child during the examination. If the child is compliant the first session often lasts between 15-30 minutes and may include the following, depending on age:

  • A gentle but thorough examination of the teeth, jaw, bite, gums and oral tissues to monitor growth and development and observe any problem areas.
  • If indicated, a gentle cleaning, which includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tarter build-up and stains; X-rays; a demonstration on proper home cleaning; assessment of the need for fluoride.

The dentist should be able to answer any questions you have and try to make you and your child feel comfortable throughout the visit. The entire dental team and the office should provide a relaxed, non-threatening environment for your child.

When should the next visit be?
Children, like adults, should see the dentist every six months. Some dentists may schedule interim visits for every three months when the child is very young to build up a comfort and confidence level, or to treat a developing problem.

Source: Academy of General Dentistry