Wondering when to take your child to the dentist? American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends you take your child after the first tooth or before his first birthday.

Why so early? About 42 percent of children between 2-11 have had at least one cavity on a baby tooth. 

Going to the dentist is scary enough even for adults. Your child? Now there’s a challenge. Here’s how to help them with their first dentist appointment.

Get Your Child Familiar with the Office 

Ask the pediatric dentist if you can do a tour before your child’s appointment. Get the feel for the office, and see how they treat children. Even though your child is young, it will help to be a little familiar with the office and see other children there.

Take Your Child With You on Your Dental Visits

Even if you decide to take your child to a different dentist, it is important to get your child used to the dentist office. Take your child with you to a routine cleaning, so she can see you in the chair.  

Watch Videos and Read Books About Dentist Visits

There are several videos on YouTube to show your child actual dental visits. It helps your child to feel more prepared and gives an idea of what to expect before the visit.

You can also check for your child’s favorite cartoons that show dental visits. Look for cartoons like Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street. This puts a positive spin on the visit and shows it’s not scary.

You can also find lots of books like Elmo Visits the DentistJust Going to the Dentist, and The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist. These are great bedtime stories for your children along with videos to reinforce that going to the dentist is fun and important.

Pick a Time That Works for Your Child

This doesn’t prepare your child for going to the dentist but helps prevent a meltdown. Make sure you pick a time that doesn’t interfere with a nap or meal. If your child is already in a bad mood, your child will probably be less tolerant and not cooperative.

Younger children tend to do better in the morning. If your child is older, the afternoon may be just fine. Don’t push your child too hard for this appointment by running them around a lot before an appointment to make them tired.

Use Positive Reinforcement 

It’s normal for your child to be nervous or anxious before a dental visit. Let them know it’s okay to be nervous, but praise them for being brave.

Draw attention to everything that went right after the appointment. Don’t criticize your child for complaining or crying because you don’t want your child to associate any negative feelings with the dental visit.

Ask your child for their thoughts if he is older. Maybe do a special treat after the visit to reinforce how well she behaved.

You Need to Be Positive About the Dentist

Not only do you need to focus on the positive aspects of your child’s dental visit, but you also can’t show any of your own personal dental anxiety to your child. Studies confirm that parents can pass down any dental anxiety to their children.

Even if you don’t like the dentist, refrain from talking about any dental anxiety around your children even if it is with someone else. Take a deep breath before you take your child, stay upbeat, and do your best to seem happy.

Bring a Favorite Toy

Let your younger children bring a favorite stuffed animal or doll. It will help them feel at ease. The dentist can also demonstrate what he is going to do on the toy first to make it seem less intimidating.  

Be Open and Talk to Your Child

Tell your child before their appointment that there are no procedures for their first visit. The appointment is all about meeting the dentist and talking about teeth. Tell your child that these people will help her keep a healthy smile.

Tell Your Child the Same Day as Appointment

Talk to your child about what to expect at the dentist, but don’t tell them the actual day of their appointment until that day. This way he won’t build up anxiety thinking about the appointment and dreading the day. Don’t completely surprise your child by just showing up at the dentist because that could also backfire.

Tell your child that morning that a nice doctor is going to look at his teeth and count them. Let your child know that the doctor wants to help your child’s smile healthy and will explain how to take care of her teeth.

Answer any questions your child has. Avoid words like shot, pain, needle, or hurt even if you say it won’t hurt. Your child will hear that word.

Why You Should Take Your Child to the Dentist Early

It’s important to get your child to the dentist early to make sure her teeth develop correctly and your child’s smile is healthy. Taking your child to the dentist early and regularly gets makes your child comfortable and helps build a rapport with the dentist’s office for future visits.

Primary, or baby teeth, are much more important to your child’s health then you may think. They help with more than chewing. It’s important that these teeth are healthy to:

  • Develop speech
  • Save space for permanent teeth
  • Chew properly
  • Promote a healthy smile for self-confidence

Going to the dentist this early will be more educational for you and show your child how important teeth are. 

Time to Make Your Child’s First Dentist Appointment

Your child’s first dentist appointment should not be scary. Pediatric dentists understand children and are on your team. Working together, you and your child’s pediatric dentist will talk to you about the best way to care for your child’s teeth. 

Ready to make that appointment? Saginaw Pediatric Dentistry would love to be your child’s dentist. Schedule an appointment with us today.