Prepare your child
If possible, schedule morning appointments so young children are alert and fresh.
Prepare a preschooler or older child for the visit by giving him or her a general idea of what to expect. Explain why it is important to go to the dentist. Build excitement and understanding.
Discuss your questions and concerns with the dentist. Remember that your feeling toward dental visits can be quite different from your child’s. Be honest with your view of the dentist. If you have dental anxieties, be careful not to relate those fears or dislikes to your child. Parents need to give moral support by staying calm while in the dental exam room. Children can pick up parents’ anxieties and become anxious themselves.
Prepare the dentist
At the first visit, give the dentist your child’s complete health history. For a restoration visit, such as getting a cavity filled, tell the dentist if your child tends to be stubborn, defiant, anxious, or fearful in other situations.
Watch how your child reacts. Many parents are able to guess how their child will respond and should tell the dentist. Certain behaviors may be linked to your child’s age:
- 10 to 24 months: Some securely attached children may get upset when taken from their parents for an exam.
- 2 to 3 years: A securely attached child may be able to cope with a brief separation from parents. In a 2-year-old, “no” may be a common response.
- 3 years: Three-year-olds may not be OK being apart from a parent when having a dental procedure such as getting a cavity filled. This is because most 3-year-olds are not socially mature enough to separate from parents.
- 4 years: Most children should be able to sit in another room from parents for exams and treatment procedures.
The first visit
Your child’s first dental visit is to help your child feel comfortable with the dentist. The first dental visit is recommended by 12 months of age, or within 6 months of the first tooth coming in. The first visit often lasts 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on your child’s age, the visit may include a full exam of the teeth, jaws, bite, gums, and oral tissues to check growth and development. If needed, your child may also have a gentle cleaning. This includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tartar, and stains. The dentist may show you and your child proper home cleaning such as flossing, and advise you on the need for fluoride. Baby teeth fall out, so X-rays aren’t often done. But your child’s dentist may recommend X-rays to diagnose decay, depending on your child’s age. X-rays are also used to see if the root of a jammed baby tooth may be affecting an adult tooth. In general, it is best that young children not have dental X-rays unless absolutely needed.