An Infant/ Child's First Visit To The Dentist

Promoting Good Oral Health And Habits In Children

It is common for parents to wonder when they should start bringing their child or children to see a dentist for the first time. According to the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the ideal time to bring your child for their first exam with a dentist, is within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth, or by the child's first birthday. This may come as surprise to some and seem early. This is an updated standard and is earlier than previously recommended. 

The initial visit differs from an adults initial visit to the dental office.

These earlier appointments are meant to discover and prevent problems from developing. Dental caries in children is the most common, chronic childhood disease found in the United States. 

By age 2 or 3 about
%
of children have had at least one tooth with a cavity, often not treated
By Kindergarten over
%
or about half, have had a cavity or a filling in their mouth.

As part of the Oral Health Initiative, developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, the initial visit has many components.

The initial visit is designed to:

  • prevent problems from developing later in life

  • develop some familiarity with the dentist and the office before a problem happens

  • make the child more comfortable if a problem develops

  • develop good oral health care habits

  • demonstrate proper oral hygiene care

  • council and educate parents on proper nutrition, and oral care

  • educate parents about how children's teeth develop and change

It is important for children to receive preventative treatment

because 90% of cavities are preventable with proper oral hygiene, regular dental care and good choices about nutrition. There can be bacterial build-up in a child's mouth that harm teeth even before the teeth erupt. It is important to start hygiene skills early to prevent problems before they have a chance to grow into larger problems. 

Regular visits to the dentist and the dental office help your child

become familiar with the surroundings and the overall experience of going to the dentist. There are several things that parents can do to make the first and subsequent appointments go smoothly. Remember, your attitude greatly influences your child's attitude. Always be positive, even if you have had negative experiences. It is important to keep negative comments out of your child's experience. This may be difficult for parents who might have very real fears, however, your child will greatly benefit if they are not scared prior to their visit. Parents who are calm and relaxed help their child be calm and relaxed in this new situation. 

Some helpful tips for parents could include the following:

  • reading books about going to the dentist

  • practicing opening their mouth "big like a lion or a hippopotamus"

  • have your child lay back and practice opening their mouth while you count their teeth

  • use a small mirror to explore and look in their mouth

  • coloring pictures of a tooth, toothbrush, dental office, children brushing their teeth

  • reassure them that dentist, hygienist, assistance and staff are important people who help take good care of them

  • letting them know going to the dentist can be fun and enjoyable

  • reassure them the dentist will help them to learn and answer their questions about their mouth and teeth

  • schedule the appointment early in the morning when the child is well fed and rested

  • gently wipe their gum tissue with a clean wet washcloth before teeth erupt to promote healthy tissue and establish regular oral care

  • gently brush the erupted tooth using a wet infant toothbrush (no toothpaste-ask us when to add toothpaste)

At your infant or child's first visit, especially when they are around 1 year of age, it is common for them to cry. Remember they cry for many reasons. It is okay and perfectly normal. This is a normal behavior and often more of a problem for the parent or caregiver. They are not crying because something hurts. Often young children cry in a new environment, a new situation and a new experience. We will have the parent sit in a chair and have them hold their child. Sometimes, we might not even have the parent sit in the dental chair, rather on the dentist chair for us to do the exam. We can see a lot when a child is crying with their mouth wide open. 

The appointment might

last 15 to 30 minutes.

Parent questions and concerns

will be part of the exam

We will recommend regular visits

every 3 - 6 months, depending on your child's needs.

We will look at health history, nutritional history, eating habits and oral health history. We will take a look at the gum tissue, any teeth visible, and oral tissue health. We are checking for what is normal and healthy and any potential problem areas. Guidelines for oral hygiene, general care, use of bottles, sippy cups, toothpaste, need for fluoride supplements and development will be discussed.

We have added links on our Links page to help you, the parents and caregivers, look at greater detail of additional information about your infant or child's oral health. It is important to remember that your child's overall health is greatly related to their oral health. Starting and learning healthy habits when they are young so they may last a lifetime is crucial to your child's health. We look forward to seeing both you and your children to begin their healthy lifelong journey.