Making your child’s first dental visit a happy experience


Dear Adele,

Our toddler has a mouthful of pearly whites now! I have always hated going to the dentist myself, so have been unenthusiastic about making an appointment for him, to say the least. Any suggestions on how I can make a first dentist appointment, an easy, relaxed and comfortable experience for our little one?

Hesitant Hazel


Dear Hesitant Hazel,

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that children have their first dentist visit ‘within six months of getting their first tooth or by one year of age’. Some dentists are comfortable with children having their first appointment around the age of two when they are more able to grasp new concepts, can be motivated to participate in their dental care, and can remember ideas presented by the dentist and his staff.

The first dental appointment should focus on prevention of dental problems. The dentist can see if the child’s teeth are coming in correctly. Any cavities can be caught early and prevent the pain that can be associated with cavities. The dentist can check for symptoms of tooth decay, the child’s bite, and potential problems with gums, jaw and oral tissues.

Education of the parents and the child about appropriate dental habits can be taught during this time as well, and can last a lifetime. The dentist and his staff can educate the adult about developmental issues and milestones, dental health care basics, oral habits such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and lip sucking. In addition, teething, proper nutrition and an appropriate schedule for dental visits can be discussed.

You are wise to consider ways to make your progeny’s early dental visits constructive experiences. Consider finding a pediatric dentist who has two years of extra training on management and treatment of maturing teeth, development and behavior of young children and their special needs. Otherwise ensure that your family dentist and his/her staff is experienced with children, kid friendly and up to the task of dealing with the possibility of children’s squirming, inattentiveness or crying. A waiting room full of age-appropriate toys and books as well as a front desk person who is upbeat with kids, is an affirmative sign of a welcoming environment for your offspring’s initial dental visits.

May I suggest you visit the workplace of the dentist you choose a few times just to sit in the waiting room and play or talk to the staff. The dentist may be open to a quick tour of the facility. He/she may allow you to bring your child to your own dental appointment, where you can model a happy experience.

When you decide to make an appointment for your child, set the time when the little one is rested and well fed. Keep the visit short and easy with no x-rays or cleaning involved. The child may be asked to lie on you or sit on you in the dental chair. Bring your list of questions for the dentist. Also bring a medical history and medication history of the child. Ensure the whole family, including siblings keeps the talk about the dentist and the experiences positive, encouraging and supportive.

A few guidelines for dental care for children from the dental website article “Dental Care for Children Age2-5” are summarized below:

1: clean the gums of infants with a soft face cloth or gauze

2: brush a child’s teeth twice a day with a soft brush and non-fluoride toothpaste

3: supervise the child’s brushing

4: avoid drinks or food after the bedtime brushing

5: floss when teeth touch

6: monitor sugar intake

7: discuss dental sealants for permanent molars with the dentist

8: discuss the use of the WAND versus a needle for freezing

9: establish a schedule for dental checkups

10: be positive before, during and after dental visits

I will conclude with a few quotations about teeth and dentistry:

Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.”   — Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

You don’t have to brush your teeth, just the ones you want to keep!”   — Author Unknown

 ‘The best and cheapest dentistry is when the right thing is done extremely well the first time, and it lasts for a long time.”   —  Author Unknown

Best wishes Hesitant Hazel in taking your little one to his first dental appointment!

Sincerely, Adele

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