Our Pediatric Dental Office Blog - KidZdent in Old Bridge, NJ
Your Child's First Dental Visit
In this day and age there are so many things to worry about when having a child. Luckily, finding a great dental practice doesn’t have to be one of them. As a mother and dental hygienist, it’s relieving and rewarding to find an office where you’re excited to schedule a visit. It’s extremely important to find a practice with a bright, cheerful environment so that your child looks forward to his or her appointment.
The current recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest; “…bringing your child to the dentist six months after their first tooth comes in or by their first birthday, whichever comes first.” Choosing a dental office by age one gives your child a place to grow and learn the importance of proper brushing and nutrition for healthy gums and teeth. I brought my son Jack to the dental office where I work just a little past his first birthday.
Like most parents, I was nervous that he wouldn’t sit still, that he would cry and get upset. Jack sat on my lap facing me with his head in the dental hygienist's lap. I found out exactly how many teeth he had and learned that his teeth and jaw were developing normally. Also, I found out Jack didn’t have any cavities! He didn’t seem to like a few aspects of the dental exam, but overall I felt it was a great experience. I left with the knowledge that I was doing a great job brushing his teeth and that felt awesome! The first visit is quick and painless and really just serves as an information session for parent and child.
What Can You Expect at Your Child’s First Dental Visit?
Arrive early to allow your child time to play with the toys in the waiting room so he or she can ease into the first dental visit with as little anxiety as possible. After getting your child's medical and dental history the dental hygienist may ask you to hold your child on your lap, or the patient might be ready to sit in the chair.
To help your child feel comfortable a thorough description of each procedure will be explained. It is common for the hygienist to show the child each tool on his or her fingers to alleviate any fears he or she may have of the “pointy” instruments. Many children love to feel the “tickling toothbrush,” the polisher, on their fingers and watch “Mr. Thirsty", the suction slurp up water from the dental tray. A cleaning, exam and fluoride treatment will follow the demonstration. A stuffed alligator with a large brush and dental mirror may be used as a dental puppet to display proper brushing techniques to the child. At the first dental visit parents will learn important information about diet, nutrition and how to properly take care of their baby's teeth.
There are several things parents can do to make the first visit enjoyable. Some helpful tips are listed below:
Take another adult along for the visit – Sometimes infants become fussy when having their mouths examined. Having another adult along to soothe the infant allows the parent to ask questions and to attend to any advice the dentist may have.
Leave other children at home – Other children can distract the parent and cause the infant to fuss. Leaving other children at home (when possible) makes the first visit less stressful for all concerned.
Avoid threatening language – The dental team is trained to avoid the use of threatening language like “drills,” “needles,” “injections,” and “bleeding.” It is also imperative for parents to use positive language when speaking about dental treatment with their child.
Provide positive explanations – It is important to explain the purposes of the dental visit in a positive way. Explaining that the dentist “helps keep teeth healthy” is far better than explaining that the dentist “is checking for tooth decay and might have to drill the tooth if decay is found.”
Explain what will happen – Anxiety can be vastly reduced if the child knows what to expect. Please visit our Social Story page with the child to explain the first visit at KidZdent. Age-appropriate books about visiting the dentist can also be very helpful in making the visit seem fun. Here is a list of parent and dentist-approved books:
- 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.
I hope you found this information helpful. You can learn more about the first dental visit at KidZdent by visiting our Pediatric Page. Feel free to contact the dental office ahead of time if you have any questions or concerns about your child's first dental visit.
Blog by Jessica G. - KidZdent Dental Hygienist